By Jonathan Weil
The White House last night posted on its website a copy of the jobs bill that President Obama has sent to Congress. One of the more curious sections falls under the subtitle "prohibition of discrimination in employment on the basis of an individual's status as unemployed."
It seems that if an employer doesn't hire someone because the person is unemployed, that person could have grounds for a lawsuit, and the government could file claims accusing the employer of civil-rights violations. One of the bill's sections would make it "an unlawful employment practice for an employer to fail or refuse to consider for employment, or fail or refuse to hire, an individual as an employee because of the individual's status as unemployed."
Thankfully, the proposal goes on to say that "nothing in this act is intended to preclude an employer or employment agency from considering an individual's employment history, or from examining the reasons underlying an individual’s status as unemployed, in assessing an individual’s ability to perform a job or in otherwise making employment decisions about that individual." The hard part of course would be proving whether someone's unemployment is the reason that person is still unemployed.
No doubt plenty of lawyers will be happy to charge top dollar to argue either side, in the event Congress passes this section into law.
(Jonathan Weil is a Bloomberg View columnist.)-0- Sep/14/2011 16:34 GMT