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The Battle Against Unemployment Discrimination

The Battle Against Unemployment Discrimination

Today’s applicants face growing concerns over unemployment discrimination. Job ads with “currently employed” as a requirement snub many skilled candidates.

Unemployment discrimination, the practice of refusing to hire someone who doesn't already have a job, has become a hot topic in the past decade.

According to a report by the National Employment Law Project, a sampling of job ads on sites like Monster.com and Indeed.com found over 150 listings that excluded applicants who were unemployed, with most listing current employment as an application requirement.

Skilled candidates may be otherwise qualified for a position but turned down due to a gap in employment. While discriminating against the jobless is not technically illegal in many places, employers need to take steps to eliminate the practice in their organizations.

Unemployment discrimination can go hand-in-hand with family responsibilities discrimination. Learn how to prevent them in this free webinar.

Unemployment Discrimination: Why and How

When some recruiters see that an applicant is unemployed, they may assume the worst. First, they may think that the candidate has some negative personality trait that led other employers to not want them. A poor work ethic, lack of skills, or uncooperative attitude might come to mind, even if the applicant has none of those attributes.

Recruiters may also think that a gap in employment nullifies the applicant's skills and knowledge of their industry. In their minds, being out of the workforce for awhile could render the candidate's skills out-of-date.

Unemployment discrimination is often obvious. Companies list "currently employed" among the requirements in their job advertisements. They may also immediately place resumes with an employment gap into the "no" pile or not call someone back after an interview if they bring up their gap in employment.

Who is Affected by Unemployment Discrimination?

In the report by the National Employment Law Project, the instances of unemployment discrimination "included big, small and midsize businesses, and the jobs being filled included both blue- and white-collar positions at all levels."

While it seems that no one is safe from unemployment discrimination, some groups face it more often than others. Individuals with disabilities, older adults, parents, and people of color are all overrepresented in the unemployed pool.

Minority applicants are already underrepresented in the workforce but unemployment discrimination makes their presence even smaller. Systemic racism has made it harder for people of color to find work, which in turn makes recruiters less likely to hire them. This cycle needs to end.

gap in employment

Eradicating Unemployment Discrimination

While unemployment discrimination is a terrible practice, it is not illegal in most places. Because unemployment is not a protected class like race, gender, or religion, unemployment discrimination does not violate discrimination laws.

Luckily, some states, including New Jersey and Oregon, have created laws to combat the practice. From outlawing job listings with "currently employed" as a requirement to more strict prohibition of unemployment discrimination, these pieces of legislation are steps in the right direction.

In areas where no such laws have been passed, people are coming together to make it happen. An article by Brendan Lynch in the Boston Herald notes, "The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination is looking into the job listings, since minorities, or parents leaving the workforce to raise children, could be affected, said Chairman Julian Tynes." In 2011, over 88,000 people signed a petition calling on job sites like Monster.com to ban job ads with current employment as a requirement.

What Your Organization Can Do

Are you ready to combat unemployment discrimination in your workplace? To start, tell third-party recruiters and staffers to remove current employment as a requirement in your job listings.

When considering jobless applicants in competitions, don't write them off right away. Look for evidence that they have kept up with their industry during their gap in employment. Have they volunteered in your field? Did they enrolled in relevant courses? Did they attend industry networking events?

Immediately rejecting applicants with a gap in employment only hurts your business. You may be missing out on a skilled, qualified candidate.

RELATED: What is Unemployment Discrimination?

Today's applicants face growing concerns over unemployment discrimination. Do your part to eradicate this practice and increase your applicant pool.