Discrimination against the unemployed is a topic that has been garnering headlines and political attention for the past year, significantly more so since the September 2011 American Jobs Act called for “prohibiting employers from discriminating against unemployed workers when hiring.” Others have weighed in on the issue and I’m adding my voice here.
There is no denying that there have been instances where job postings have included something like “only those already employed should apply” and surveys show that many hiring managers and recruiters hold biases against the unemployed. How widespread the problem actually is remains under debate and the effectiveness or enforceability of such a law is also hotly discussed. Regardless, from New York to Chicago to California efforts are underway to make such discrimination illegal at the county, state and federal level. Discriminating against the unemployed is offensive and misguided, but should it be illegal? I don’t think so.
Many columnists and pundits have weighed in on the matter and I share a few with you below. I am of the opinion that in general more regulation is not good for business and not good for job creation either, so that puts me in a certain column when it comes to these laws. I invite everyone to read more than I’ve provided here before deciding for yourself but for me, I agree with those who argue that this is upsetting but not widespread; does not merit the creation of a new protected class; and would be prohibitively expensive to enforce or perhaps even to define.
But what I believe most strongly is that anyone who dismisses currently unemployed candidates from consideration is more than misguided; they are bordering on stupid. It is reprehensible to assume anything about an individual person based on any group or category that they belong to; all Californians aren’t surfers and all unemployed people aren’t lazy or incompetent, far from it. Given many businesses’ actions during the recent recession, shedding workers by the thousands, the ranks of the unemployed are actually filled with talented, hardworking, loyal workers just waiting for an opportunity to produce and contribute. For a recruiter or hiring manager to adopt an exclusionary policy is irresponsible. If you do so, you will miss out.
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No one should need a law to require them to consider all candidates but perhaps they need a reminder or an exhortation to do the right thing. First of all, the right thing would be to consider all applicants, regardless of employment status, at all times but in particular in this time of worldwide economic difficulty. It would seem like a good citizenship kind of thing to do, but if that doesn’t appeal to you, I encourage us all to embrace consideration of employed candidates because it is the right business thing to do. I’ll end with advice and an invitation to those currently looking for work. Don’t be discouraged by the ads that say don’t apply – keep at it and someone will eventually be smart enough to see what you have to offer. Also know that here at ATR, we don’t discriminate against anyone. Please check out our job board or contact one of our recruiters: the unemployed NEED apply.