Fair Employment Opportunity Act Bill in Senate would Prohibit Discrimination against Unemployed Jobseekers

With a bill (H.R. 2501) already introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives and support in Congress building to end discrimination against unemployed jobseekers, Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut), Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York), and Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) have sponsored the ‘Fair Employment Opportunity Act of 2011’ (S. 1471) that would bar employers and employment agencies from screening out or excluding job applicants solely because they are out of work, according to a press release from the National Employment Law Project (NELP), a national advocacy organization for employment rights of lower-wage and unemployed workers.

The introduction of the bill in the Senate prohibiting discrimination against unemployed jobseekers may be a sign that hiring policies that proclaim applicants “must be currently employed” or the unemployed “need not apply” are closer to being outlawed. The version of the bill introduced in the House by Representatives Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut and Henry Johnson, Jr. of Georgia – H.R. 2501 – is designed to prohibit discrimination in employment on the basis of an individual’s status or history of unemployment and would provide protection to job applicants discriminated against because they are unemployed.

Key provisions of the Fair Employment Opportunity Act of 2011 for employers (with over 15 employees) and employment agencies would include:

  • (a) Employers – It shall be an unlawful practice for an employer to — (1) refuse to consider for employment or refuse to offer employment to an individual because of the individual’s status as unemployed; (2) publish in print, on the Internet, or in any other medium, an advertisement or announcement for any job that includes — (A) any provision stating or indicating that an individual’s status as unemployed disqualifies the individual for a job; and (B) any provision stating or indicating that an employer will not consider an applicant for employment based on that individual’s status as unemployed; and (3) direct or request that an employment agency take an individual’s status as unemployed into account in screening or referring applicants for employment.
  • (b) Employment Agencies – It shall be an unlawful practice for an employment agency to — (1) refuse to consider or refer an individual for employment based on the individual’s status as unemployed; (2) limit, segregate, or classify individuals in any manner that may limit their access to information about jobs or referral for consideration of jobs because of their status as unemployed; or (3) publish, in print or on the Internet or in any other medium, an advertisement or announcement for any job vacancy that includes — (A) any provision stating or indicating that an individual’s status as unemployed disqualifies the individual for a job; and (B) any provision stating or indicating that an employer will not consider individuals for employment based on that individual’s status as unemployed.

A July 2011 Briefing Paper from NELP – “Hiring Discrimination Against the Unemployed: Federal Bill Outlaws Excluding the Unemployed from Job Opportunities, as Discriminatory Ads Persist” – found that hiring discrimination against the unemployed continued as employers and staffing firms posted job listings excluding unemployed jobseekers and expressly denied job opportunities to those workers hardest hit by the economic downturn. An informal NELP survey of a number of job posting websites found numerous job ads stating that jobseekers “must be currently employed.”

As reported earlier on the Employment Screening Resources (ESR) News blog “EEOC Examines Practice of Employers Excluding Unemployed Job Applicants from Job Vacancies,” the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) – the federal agency that enforces the nation’s laws prohibiting employment discrimination – held a public meeting in February 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.

To read the House of Representatives version of the ‘Fair Employment Opportunity Act of 2011’ (H.R. 2501), visit: http://www.nelp.org/page/-/UI/2011/Fair_Employ_Oppty_Act_2011.pdf?nocdn=1.

To avoid discriminatory hiring practices, visit Employment Screening Resources (ESR) at http://www.ESRcheck.com.

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Sources:
http://www.nelp.org/page/-/Press%20Releases/2011/PR_Senate_Bill_Discrim_Unemployed.pdf?nocdn=1.
http://www.nelp.org/page/-/UI/2011/Fair_Employ_Oppty_Act_2011.pdf?nocdn=1.
http://www.nelp.org/page/-/UI/2011/unemployed.discrimination.7.12.2011.pdf?nocdn=1.