Is Unemployment a Protected Class?

Are employers turning up their noses at the unemployed when it comes to considering them for job openings? The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is proposing to protect unemployed job seekers, by making it illegal for employers to consider the employment status of applicants.

The EEOC introduced a bill in August 2011 that would make it unlawful for an (employer) to refuse to consider or refer an individual for employment based on the individual’s status as unemployed or to limit, segregate, or classify individuals in any manner that may limit their access to information about jobs or referral for consideration of jobs because of their status as unemployed.

According Anne Duffy, counsel for the American Staffing Association “New Jersey became the first (and, so far, only) state to prohibit employers from discriminating against unemployed individuals…In 2011, bills were pending in Illinois, Michigan, and New York…So far in 2012, similar bills have been introduced in Arizona, California, Hawaii, Iowa, and Nebraska.”

Fernan R Cepero, PHR, New York State Director for the Society of Human Resource Management testified before the EEOC that “SHRM is unaware of widespread recruiting practices that involve blanket exclusions, (however) long-term unemployment might mean the job seeker’s skills might be outdated or obsolete.”

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