Written By ESR News Blog Editor Thomas Ahearn

In April 2022, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DOL) Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) hosted a virtual roundtable titled “Untapped Potential: Reimagining Equity for Workers with Gaps in Employment History” as part of the Hiring Initiative to Reimagine Equity (HIRE) to discuss challenges of workers reentering the workforce after unemployment. 

“Workers who have experienced periods of unemployment are an often overlooked talent pool with a great deal to contribute to our society, and they can be a serious boon to employers seeking to fulfill today’s staffing needs. They are diverse, and many are from groups that have been historically marginalized in the workplace or denied opportunity because of discrimination,” EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows stated in a press release

“At today’s roundtable, we explored the wealth of talent that is often hidden from employers by hiring screens that exclude highly qualified workers simply because of a period of unemployment. We explored key strategies for employers to expand opportunity to good jobs by ensuring job-related criteria is the foundation of the hiring process,” OFCCP Director Jenny R. Yang commented in the press release.

A panel of four experts representing organizations advocating on behalf of workers discussed the job skills that workers with employment gaps offer employers and suggested ways to improve recruiting and hiring practices. “Almost everything employers ‘know’ about applicants with an employment history gap is wrong,” said Eve Hill, Chair, Board of Trustees, Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law and Partner, Brown, Goldstein & Levy.

“For businesses to grow they will need to attract and retain a diverse talent pool. This diversity going forward will include people with gaps in their employment history for various reasons. The opportunity to learn and grow as a person exists both internal and external to the workplace,” noted Teresa Y. Hodge, President of Mission: Launch, which helps improve social outcomes for Americans with an arrest and/or conviction record.

“Workers who have gaps on their resumes due to caregiving or pregnancy should not face discrimination when looking for a new job. Workers who dropped out, or were pushed out, of the workplace, disproportionately mothers and people of color, deserve a fair shot and to be recognized for the many skills and values learned during their time away from the paid labor market,” said Elizabeth Gedmark, Vice President at A Better Balance

“AARP is pleased to contribute to this effort to break down barriers and build equity for groups of workers that are often overlooked or ignored. Older workers bring high levels of engagement, productivity, and soft skills to the table, yet age discrimination remains distressingly common,” commented Heather Tinsley-Fix, Senior Advisor, Financial Resilience, American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).

Through the HIRE Initiative, the EEOC and OFCCP will continue to host roundtable discussions and meetings to identify actionable strategies to promote organizational policies and practices that advance equity. The agencies will develop guidance documents and resources that will promote evidence-based research and innovative initiatives aimed at embedding equity in recruitment and hiring practices.

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