The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) held a public meeting on Wednesday, February 16, 2011 to examine the practice by employers of considering only those currently employed for job vacancies and excluding currently unemployed persons from job applicant pools, including in job announcements, and also to hear from invited panelists on the potential impact on job seekers, according to an EEOC press release titled ‘Out of Work? Out of Luck.’
The Chair of the EEOC – which enforces the nation’s laws prohibiting employment discrimination – said the meeting gave the Commission an opportunity to learn about the emerging practice of excluding unemployed persons from applicant pools as part of the EEOC’s commitment to ensure job applicants are treated fairly in the hiring process. The agenda of the EEOC meeting, which was open to the public, included three panels:
- Panel 1: U.S. Department of Labor’s Latest Unemployment Data
- Panel 2: Unemployment Status Screening
- Panel 3: Impact on Unemployed Persons
According to one panelist, employers and staffing agencies have publicly advertised jobs in several fields with the explicit restriction that only currently employed candidates will be considered, and that some employers may use current employment as a signal of quality job performance. Other panelists testified that the use of the unemployment status to screen job applicants was a troubling development in the labor market and may counter act government efforts to get people back to work. Excluding the currently unemployed from job openings could also have a disproportionate effect on the following:
- Women, particularly older women,
- Certain racial and ethnic minority members,
- People with disabilities, and
- Older job applicants in general.
The Executive Director of the National Employment Law Project (NELP) – who found the rising trend of deliberately excluding the jobless from work opportunities “profoundly disturbing” – recounted stories that unemployed workers had shared where they were told directly that they would not be considered for employment due to being unemployed.
However, a representative from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) told the Commission the organization was not aware of the practice of excluding jobless applicants was used regularly but noted the automatic exclusion of unemployed persons from consideration did not constitute “due diligence” in the background screening of job applicants.
The EEOC meeting shows that the government is concerned that some companies may not be considering unemployed applicants for job openings and are excluding the jobless from applying. Additional information about the EEOC meeting examining treatment of the of unemployed job applicants by employers, including statements and biographies of the witnesses, may be found at http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/meetings/2-16-11/index.cfm.
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