Democrats Back Bar on Discrimination Targeting Unemployed

U.S. companies should be required to consider job applications from unemployed workers, Democratic lawmakers said as they urged Congress to pass legislation protecting those without a job.

A law would prevent employers and hiring agencies from refusing to consider or hire applicants who are out of work, Representative Hank Johnson, a Georgia Democrat, said today. The proposed bills also would bar language in job ads disqualifying the unemployed.

“The legislation levels the playing field for the unemployed,” Johnson said today at a news conference attended by Representative Rosa DeLauro and Senator Richard Blumenthal, both from Connecticut. “All they want is a fair shake.”

Democrats say legislation would end practices such as online help-wanted ads that require applicants to have a job to be considered. Business groups such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce say few employers balk at hiring those without a current job and legislation isn’t necessary. Provisions of the bills are included in President Barack Obama’s jobs bill, submitted to Congress on Sept. 12.

Congress today received a petition with 250,000 names in support of ending discrimination against the unemployed, said David Elliot, a spokesman with the Washington-based USAction, a federation of 22 state affiliates that advocates for human-service programs and support for public education.

U.S. unemployment has been at or above 9 percent for 26 of the past 28 months, according to a Sept. 2 report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average length of unemployment, seasonally adjusted, rose to 40 weeks in August from 34 weeks in the year-earlier month.

Unemployed Excluded

The proposed law might lead employers to exclude the unemployed from a pool of applicants, to avoid lawsuits from an jobless candidate who isn’t hired, Representative Louie Gohmert, a Texas Republican, said in an interview.

“If you have an opening, you may then be more likely to look for someone who’s already employed,” Gohmert said.

A study of hiring sites, and in March and April by the New York-based National Employment Law Project found more than 150 postings that said applicants needed a job. The study didn’t include the total ads reviewed.

Blumenthal said he’s seen advertisements for a paralegal and in insurance and hospitality industries that required the applicant to be employed.

“They add to the quicksand of unemployment,” he said. Such practices hurt minorities and younger workers, including recent college graduates, Blumenthal said.

Indeed, Monster

Indeed Inc.’s, a website backed by companies including the New York Times Co. and Allen & Co., on Aug. 25 began adopting measures to block such ads that discriminate against the unemployed from search results, spokesman Michael Werch said in an e-mail. Indeed is based in Stamford, Connecticut.

Matthew Henson, a spokesman for New York-based Monster Worldwide Inc.’s jobs website, and Jennifer Grasz, a spokeswoman for the Chicago-based CareerBuilder job site owned by Gannett Co., Tribune Co. and McClatchy Co., didn’t return calls seeking comment.

Legislation isn’t needed because discrimination isn’t widespread, Michael Eastman, executive director of labor law policy at the Washington-based U.S. Chamber, the largest U.S. business group, said in an e-mail.

“I am only aware of a tiny handful of examples of this occurring in the real world, and no one has made the case of how current law is failing,” Eastman said.

Democrats have urged Representative John Kline, a Minnesota Republican and chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, to hold a hearing on job discrimination against unemployed workers, DeLauro said.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE