New York City Passes Law Prohibiting Hiring Discrimination against Unemployed Job Applicants

The New York City Council has voted to override a veto by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to enact legislation – Intro 814-A – that prohibits employers from refusing to consider or hire qualified job applicants who are unemployed. The law prevents employers from using employment status in a hiring decision and from posting job ads that require applicants to be currently employed. The Council had originally passed the bill in January 2013 before the Mayor’s veto in February 2013. A press release from the New York City Council about the legislation is available at http://council.nyc.gov/html/pr/012213jobs.shtml.

According to the Council’s press release, Intro 814-A “will make it illegal under the human rights law for an employer to base a hiring decision on an applicant’s unemployment without a substantially job-related reason for doing so. Under the legislation, it will also be illegal for employers to post in job advertisements that current employment is a job requirement, or that unemployed applicants will not be considered for the position.” The law defines “unemployment” as “not having a job, being available for work, and seeking employment.”

However, Intro 814-A also acknowledges that fact that “there are circumstances where an employer could reasonably consider an applicant’s unemployment” by permitting employers to consider unemployment in certain cases such as “whether an applicant has a current or valid professional license; a certificate, permit or other credential; or a minimum level of education or training.”

Once the law is enacted in roughly three months, job applicants who believe they have been unlawfully discriminated by a New York City employer against “will be able to take action in court or make a complaint to the Human Rights Commission,” who will have “the authority to order the employer to stop discriminatory practices, require discriminated applicants be hired and subject the employer to penalties if they fail to comply with the Commission’s orders.”

The New York City law is considered by many the most far-reaching legislation in the nation for preventing employers from shunning out unemployed job applicants. New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington, D.C., have already passed similar laws that prohibit job ads that state applicants must be employed to apply.

A July 2011 Briefing Paper from the National Employment Law Project (NELP) 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.” The briefing paper is available at http://nelp.3cdn.net/b4ade339e970088d72_alm6blqx8.pdf.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) – the federal agency that enforces the nation’s laws prohibiting employment discrimination – also 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. Materials from this meeting may be found at http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/meetings/2-16-11/index.cfm.

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