In an effort to help stop discrimination against unemployed Californians looking for work who may be passed over by employers or employment agencies only interested in hiring applicants who already have a job, newly proposed legislation in the state – California Assembly Bill No. 1450 (AB 1450) – would fine California employers and employment agencies that refuse to consider jobless applicants for job openings. The full text of California AB 1450 is available at: http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/11-12/bill/asm/ab_1401-1450/ab_1450_bill_20120105_introduced.pdf.
Introduced by Assemblyman Michael Allen (D-Santa Rosa/San Rafael), California AB 1450 would add Chapter 2.5 (commencing with Section 1812.50953) to Title 2.91 of Part 4 of Division 3 of the Civil Code and Chapter 3.95 (commencing with Section 1046) to Part 3 of Division 2 of the Labor Code, relating to employment. The bill would add protections for unemployed jobseekers to existing law that contains provisions defining unlawful discrimination and employment practices by employers and employment agencies.
California AB 1450 would make it unlawful, unless based on a bona fide occupational qualification or any other provision of law, for:
- An employer to knowingly or intentionally refuse to consider for employment or refuse to offer employment to an individual because of the individual’s status as unemployed, publish an advertisement or announcement for any job that includes provisions pertaining to an individual’s status as unemployed, as specified, or direct or request that an employment agency take an individual’s status as unemployed into account in screening or referring applicants for employment.
- An employment agency to knowingly or intentionally refuse to consider or refer an individual for employment because of the individual’s status as unemployed, 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 publish an advertisement or announcement, as described above with respect to employers.
If passed, California AB 1450 would also subject an employer or employment agency who violates the new provisions to civil penalties that increase as the number of violations increase:
- An amount not to exceed one thousand dollars ($1,000) for the first violation.
- An amount not to exceed five thousand dollars ($5,000) for the second violation.
- An amount not to exceed ten thousand dollars ($10,000) for each subsequent violation.
Discrimination against unemployed jobseekers has become more apparent during the recent economic downturn when record numbers of Americans found themselves unemployed. A July 2011 Briefing Paper from the National Employment Law Project (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 occurs when employers and staffing firms post job listings excluding unemployed jobseekers and expressly deny job opportunities to those workers hardest hit by the economic downturn.
An informal survey by NELP of a number of job posting websites found numerous job ads stating that jobseekers ‘must be currently employed.’ The study claimed the “perverse catch-22” of job seekers not being able to get a job unless they already have a job “is deepening our unemployment crisis by arbitrarily foreclosing job opportunities to many who are otherwise qualified for them.” The briefing paper from NELP, an advocacy group for the unemployed and low-wage workers, may be found at: http://www.nelp.org/page/-/UI/2011/unemployed.discrimination.7.12.2011.pdf?nocdn=1.
In addition, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) held a public meeting in February 2011 to examine the treatment of unemployed job seekers. The EEOC – the federal agency that enforces the nation’s laws prohibiting employment discrimination – examined 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. More information about the meeting is at: http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/meetings/2-16-11/index.cfm.
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