Friday, March 23, 2012

Hiring Bias Against Long Term Unemployed Continues

Hiring biases are still in place when it comes to the long term unemployed. Some states are in the process of passing laws that would fine employers running help wanted ads that warn unemployed folks not to apply. That kind of overt action is increasingly difficult to get away with, but the same basic intent has moved underground. Recruiters and screeners who do the preliminary screenings for big companies are likely to screen the long term unemployed right out of the interview pile.

From the AP via Yahoo News:

Terri Michaels, who manages a Hartford employment firm that primarily staffs temporary employees, criticized hiring practices that screen out unemployed job seekers. Despite the policies of small staffing companies such as hers, some large employers have an unspoken policy against hiring applicants who've been out of work for two years or more because they want workers with a stable job history and recent references, she said.


Michaels said employers may use unemployment to weed out applicants for no other reason than to cut down a huge number of resumes for coveted job openings.

"When you have 14 million unemployed, everyone is applying for everything," she said. "You have to be somewhat discriminating."


A New Jersey lawmaker who co-sponsored the nation's only law barring ads that restrict applicants to those already with a job, agrees that job hunters need to show they've been active, even in unemployment.

"Don't sit at home. Make yourself available to your community," said Assemblywoman Celeste M. Riley.

That's the latest trend in advice for the long term unemployed. Do volunteer work. The jury is still out on whether that actually helps anyone get paying work.

Connecticut lawmakers are proposing legislation that would ban discriminatory job ads, but may back off from a more far-reaching provision that would permit unemployed job seekers who claim discrimination to file a complaint with the state's human rights commission or sue in court.

The Connecticut Business and Industry Association hates the lawsuit part of the bill, and is pressuring lawmakers to remove that part of the bill. The state's human right's commission isn't sufficiently staffed or funded to deal with a glut of discrimination cases, which can be very difficult to prove.

The National Employment Law Project, based in New York, wants states to add laws that do more than ban discriminatory ads. Laws should explicitly prohibit employers and employment agencies from eliminating from consideration candidates who are unemployed, the advocacy group says.

That seems like sensible policy. We also need a shift in societal attitudes. As long as pundits and politicos continue to blame the unemployed for being out of work, the discrimination will continue.

The nation is slowly moving in the right direction, which we can certainly all feel good about, but we can't allow the millions who remain unemployed to be forgotten.

cross-posted at MainSt/

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