Ban discrimination against the unemployed

President Obama's American Jobs Act contains an important provision outlawing discrimination against the unemployed.

A worker who is unemployed for more than six months finds, that he or she will not even be considered for a job. As the economic crisis that erupted three years ago continues, a majority of workers who are out of work are finding themselves in this situation.

A jobless worker must first land an interview or secure a hearing in a market where he or she has had to compete with four others for a single job opening. If successful at finding an opening, he or she then has to deal with an employer who doesn't want to hire someone who has been out of work for too long. This is simply unconscionable.

The injustice is compounded for minorities and women. As the last hired, they are the first fired and more likely to be among the long-term unemployed. Overall, not only is Black and Latino unemployment double that of white workers, but they are likely to be unemployed for longer periods of time.

Women, according to a study by the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, "are more likely to be unemployed for 27 weeks or longer than their male counterparts."

President Obama's bill would ban companies with 15 or more employees from refusing to consider - or offer a job to - someone who is unemployed. The measure also applies to unemployment agencies and would prohibit want ads that disqualify applicants just because they are unemployed. 

On-line websites like Monster.com and CareerBuilder.com currently allow employers to display ads with language suggesting the long-term unemployed need not apply or that applicants must currently be employed.

The Fair Employment Opportunity Act of 2011, introduced into the House earlier this year by Reps. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., and Hank Johnson, D-Ga., also seeks to address the problem.

The 25 million unemployed men and women deserve a fair playing field. President Obama's American Jobs Act will help level the field. In addition to providing 2 million new jobs, it will be a significant step toward ending some blatantly discriminatory hiring practices. The sooner it's passed, the better.

 

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