The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

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The Nation's Premier Civil and Human Rights Coalition

Unemployed Workers Experience Hiring Discrimination

February 24, 2011 - Posted by The Leadership Conference

Even though there are millions of unemployed workers looking for jobs, some employers are excluding them from job applicant pools regardless of their qualifications, a trend that is growing according to testimony before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) last week.

“At a moment when we all should be doing whatever we can to open up job opportunities to the unemployed, it is profoundly disturbing that the trend of deliberately excluding the jobless from work opportunities is on the rise,” said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project.

Employers who are facing one of the largest applicant pools in history are excluding unemployed workers as an easy tactic to speed up the hiring process. However, with a slowly recovering economy and unemployment at nine percent, advocates say that such a policy is unfair and discriminatory.

“Some employers may use current employment as a signal of quality job performance,” said Helen Norton, associate professor at the University of Colorado School of Law. “But such a correlation is decidedly weak, as there are many reasons why one might be unemployed at any time…that have nothing to do with job performance.”

Unemployment trends indicate that minorities, older workers, people with disabilities, and others will be disproportionately affected by this exclusionary practice.  Algernon Austin of the Economic Policy Institute testified that communities of color were excessively impacted by the financial crisis, such that African Americans are experiencing twice the rate of unemployment as Whites, while Hispanics and Native Americans face unemployment at more than 1.5 times the rate of Whites, making them more likely to be unfairly excluded from these job opportunities.  Austin said that if this practice continues, employment inequality will continue to rise in the coming years.

“What’s needed most—and what all unemployed workers most want—is jobs,” Owens said. “Meeting that need requires sound public policies that help encourage job growth and a willingness on the part of employers to make job openings equally available to all qualified job seekers, without regard to their current employment status.”

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