Will the Unemployed Become a New Protected Class?

Author:Stephen D. Hans

Employers are reluctant to hire employees who have been unemployed for a substantial period of time. Before unemployment reached current levels, no one much questioned this employment practice because it was natural to seek a diligent, stable worker and long bouts of unemployment indicated instability. However, according the U.S. Department of Labor, close to 13 million Americans (8.3 percent) were unemployed in February 2012. This number is alarming and the way legislatures are viewing the unemployment situation, the unemployed may soon be considered a minority group or protected class under current legislation.

Bloomberg Businessweek  reported that in January the following states were considering legislation to prohibit discrimination against unemployed individuals through employment ads, hiring practices, and employment agency screenings:

California
Connecticut
Florida
Iowa
Michigan
Minnesota
Nebraska
New York
Ohio
Pennsylvania
South Dakota
Tennessee

Last month the Oregon Congress passed a bill to fine employers $1,000 for posting ads that notify unemployed candidates not to apply. The bill awaits governor approval. U.S. Congress is also considering legislation that prohibits discrimination against the unemployed
During the hiring process, employers address many factors, and certainly they have the right to choose the best candidate possible for a job. Unemployed workers often become desperate and willing to take any job at all. In a job market saturated with candidates looking for jobs, employers face challenges with hiring decisions.

If you have questions about the hiring process or whether actions you take as an employer are legal, seek advice from a seasoned New York employment lawyer

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