Philadelphia Employment Law News

New Law Could Prohibit Unemployment Discrimination

As of February 2012, there were nearly 13 million unemployed Americans or 8.3% of the workforce, reports the Associated Press. The recession and unemployment numbers however, are not news to most Americans. But what might surprise them is the widespread discrimination against the unemployed.

The mindset of the person hiring seems to be that if someone has been unemployed for an extended period, then that person must be lazy or have some sort of defective personality or skill. In a thriving economy where jobs are at a surplus, such logic might actually make sense.

The problem is, many of those unemployed in this historically bad recession are not lazy, or incompetent, or concealing some odd borderline personality disorder. They are merely unlucky. And with hiring practices such as outright prohibitions on candidates who have been unemployed for a long period from even applying for certain jobs, it is no wonder that they continue to be unemployed.

Currently, there are at least twelve states considering laws that would prohibit discrimination against the unemployed. Pennsylvania is one of those states. Oregon's proposed law is another example. Under that law, employers whose postings notify applicants not to apply if they are unemployed can be fined $1,000. New Jersey has already passed such a ban.

Connecticut is considering a similar law that would prohibit discriminatory ads, but it stops short of allowing those who feel that they have been discriminated against from filing complaints with the state or in court.

The proposed Pennsylvania law would prohibit unemployment discrimination in considering a person for a position, in advertising for a position, and would prohibit employment agencies from doing the same. Fines for offenses would start at between $1,500 to $3,000 for a first offense and $3,000 to $6,000 for a second offense. The Department of Labor and Industry of the Commonwealth would have the power to investigate claims.

Those discriminated against would also be able to sue in court for monetary damages.

One significant problem with these proposed laws and anti-discrimination laws in general is the difficulty in proving allegations. Obviously, written ads prohibiting the unemployed from applying are clear-cut cases. However, what about where the unemployment is considered by the hiring manager but nothing is ever written?

Unemployment discrimination does seem to be a growing problem, especially on the supposed tail end of the recession. One might question the wisdom, however, of tasking already overburdened state agencies with investigating allegations of unemployment discrimination when so much of it could be difficult to prove.

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