Discriminating Against Unemployed Workers? There Ought to Be a Law

By John A. Gallagher

This article from the Huffington Post is stunning, and makes clear to me that companies are actively avoiding hiring unemploymed workers for vacant job openings.

We have over the past months read about how more and more job openings are being posted online, while at the same time reading that,

  1. Unemployment rates at best remain constant; and,
  2. Fewer and fewer jobs are actually being filled each month.

What is the only conclusion one can reach? Companies are looking to hire only people who are currently employed.

“Many good people are out of work”

Why? The reason, I hypothesize, is that those who have remained employed throughout the recession are viewed as “the cream of the crop.”

As someone who represents unemployed people each and every day, I can say that is not always true. Many good people are out of work due to layoff or reduction in force. Others were the victims of poor managers, who lack the skills to lead, and the emotional maturity to work well with others.

Other factors working against the unemployed? Many companies are now refusing to hire anyone who has filed for bankruptcy, and are similarly opposed to hiring people with bad credit. The most likely victims of such financial calamities? The unemployed.

What can be done?

Article Continues Below

Affirmative Action for the unemployed?

Not long ago, TLNT.com posted an article of mine wherein I posited that making discrimination against the unemployed illegal is unworkable, and I still feel that way. However, I believe it is time that our leaders in Congress consider something akin to Affirmative Action where the unemployed “workforce” is concerned. Simply stated, companies should be required to hire X number of unemployed workers for every Y number of new hires they make.

The numbers are staggering. The published unemployment rate is 9 percent. Nearly 14 million Americans are unemployed. Of those, more than 6 million (45 percent) have been unemployed for more than 26 weeks (which, according to CBS News, is a higher percentage than at any time since the Great Depression). Some 5 million have been out of work for more than 52 weeks, and nearly 2 million Americans have been out of work for more than 99 weeks.

How can our country grow with these staggering unemployment numbers? I believe an Affirmative Action program for unemployed workers is the only solution to the current trend of refusing to hire the unemployed, which appears to be gathering steam. If companies are really so desperate for new help, there are lots of qualified workers anxiously sitting on the sidelines and ready to pitch in today.

This was originally published on attorney John A. Gallagher’s Employment Law 101 blog.

John A. Gallagher, Esquire, is the president of the Gallagher Law Group, P.C., a Philadelphia-area law firm concentrating its practice almost exclusively on representing individuals with workplace issues. After 15 years of representing major corporations in employment litigation, John Gallagher opened his firm in 2006, and since that time has represented only employees. Contact him at jag@johnagallagher.com.


4 Comments on “Discriminating Against Unemployed Workers? There Ought to Be a Law

  1. I would like to point out to those companies that 10-20% of EMPLOYED people are getting annual ratings of BELOW or FAILS TO MEET EXPECTATIONS.

    Would they rather have someone great who was caught in a reorg or someone employed who is on the bubble of being fired?

    This just restates the lack of critical thinking skills manifested in many companies these day.  Especially when it comes to hiring.

    1. I have posted a Poll on my Blog seeking input from people as to whether Affirmative Action is the answer to this issue.  Please vote today (to get to my Blog, just hit link at bottom of my TLNT Article).  Thanks for your Comments!  John A. Gallagher

  2. There should be a law…people who are unemployed are viewed as damaged goods.  I actually had an employer (more than one) state “we won’t look at anyone not working – why did the company get rid of them in the first place?”  I as a recruiter have tried to get managers to look at resumes of those not working and I get the same response.  When is the EEOC going to wake up?

  3. I am a Director/VP level HR professional that has been unemployed for 28 months now having been caught in the economic downturn near the beginning in February 2009.  I can attest first hand, as well as several other senior level HR colleagues, that there is a near open discrimination toward unemployed individuals and it starts right at the top of the heap with recruiting companies like Korn/Ferry, Heidrick & Struggles, Russell Reynolds, etc. who classify unemployed individuals as “on the beach” and will either not present any such individuals or only 1-2 to a prospective employer REGARDLESS of the unemployed individual’s experience, skills, accomplishments and background.  One recruiter went so far as to actually put it in his employment listing that the qualified individual had to be currently employed. I personally challenged said recruiter about the matter who told me that he was personally embarrassed by the matter, but the employer insisted that said qualification be listed despite the protests of the recruiter as to the ethicalness of doing so and the cat that there were many qualified unemployed individuals available IMMEDIATELY.  The employer’s perspective was exactly as you stated in your article that if some one was unemployed, there was a good reason they were unemployed !!!
    I personally approached SHRM (Society For Human Resource Professionals) in early 2010 about this very matter and how our OWN profession was discriminating against their OWN unemployed HR comrades.  I was interviewed by a SHRM staff member and gave said individual multiple names of others that had experienced the same level of discrimination.  Not one of those individuals was contacted by SHRM about the matter for corroboration and NO article was EVER published.
    I have also personally attended two (2) Town Hall meeting where my elected Congressional Representative as well as another Congressional Representative and one (1) of my Senators were openly fielding questions.  In each instance, the politicians side-stepped the very issue of what to do about employing the unemployed !!!!  In fairness, the first time several of us addressed it with our Congressional Representative he was flabbergasted by the fact that it was happening.  But nothing ever came of that personal contact.
    So, I welcome your article.  Unfortunately LIVING it as an highly experienced, mid-50’s divorced individual with a child in private school and debts to pay is extremely frustrating, and a bit humiliating, to say the least !!!!  

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