NYC Council bans hiring discrimination against unemployed

NEW YORK- The City Council passed legislation January 23, prohibiting employers from discriminating against job applicants based on employment status.

With both unemployment and long-term unemployment statistics here remaining at elevated levels — higher than average for the country — this measure promises some support to those who are trying to find a job after a lengthy period of unemployment.

In a preliminary Bureau of Labor Statistics report, the current unemployment rate for the NY-NJ-PA metropolitan area in December was 8.4 percent, while it was 7.4 percent for U.S. and 8.2 percent for the whole of New York State.

Increasingly, prospective employers have been screening applicants based on length of unemployment, sorting the longer term unemployed applicants out of the hiring process. Whether this occurred because of bias or a brazen strategy to hold down wages, the result was the same: real discrimination against those most desperately needing a job to support themselves and their families.

While this important anti-discrimination measure passed overwhelmingly in the city council by a 44-4 vote, opposition continues from employers and their advocates. Billionaire NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg promised to veto this legislation, according to the Wall Street Journal, calling it “one of the most misguided pieces of legislation.”

But labor disagrees. A spokesperson for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM) commented that there is “no good reason why unemployed Americans should be penalized for an economic crisis they had nothing to do with creating.”

Public radio station WNYC reports that City Council Speaker Christine Quinn says the council will act to override any mayoral veto.

When this bill becomes enforceable law, applicants discriminated against on the basis of employment status will be able to take action in court or file a complaint with the NYC Commission on Human Rights. NYC would become the first city in the U.S. where residents can pursue action in court to stop discrimination based on employment status.

Photo: Gabe Falsetta/PW