The phenomenon of unemployment discrimination has been in the news since last year, and while most states have no legal protection against this bias, states like New Jersey have made it illegal to use discriminatory language in job advertisements.
But the New York Times reports that President Obama “thinks he has found a way to pry open doors in the work place for many of the unemployed…Mr. Obama’s jobs bill would prohibit employers from discriminating against job applicants because they are unemployed.” The proposal would make it unlawful for a company with 15 or more employees to refuse to hire a person because of their unemployed status. The jobs bill would also prohibit online job postings and employment agencies from excluding the unemployed. “Unsuccessful job applicants could sue and recover damages for violations, just as when an employer discriminates on the basis of a person’s race, color, religion, sex or national origin,” the New York Times article states.
Republicans and some business owners, however, say that unemployment discrimination is not common and would open up businesses to a barrage of lawsuits. Michael J. Eastman, the Executive Director of labor law policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce pointed out that the Civil Rights Act protects workers from employment practices that “have a disparate impact on the basis of race, color, sex or national origin” unless a particular practice can be shown to be “job related for the position in question and consistent with business necessity.” Representative Louie Gohmert (R, Texas) said that if passed, the proposal would encourage litigation and in effect make the unemployed a protected class.
The report said that Mr. Obama’s proposal was modeled “in part, on bills introduced by two Connecticut Democrats, Senator Richard Blumenthal and Representative Rosa DeLauro. “Skills often atrophy when a person is out of work, and Whit House officials said that discrimination could worsen the problem, creating a class of people who could be left behind as the economy recovers.”
The Huffington Post said in a recent article that according to the National Employment Law Project, the proposal within President Obama’s American Jobs Act would not make employment status a protected class. But many Republicans, employers, and labor law specialists who represent employers are still concerned that this proposal will lead to employment litigation and frivolous and nuisance lawsuits.