In Startling Job Trend, Unemployed Need Not Apply

The latest national hiring numbers were better than expected but still not enough to get that unemployment rate to budge lower than 9.1 percent. In the face of that, lawmakers and activists say employers are reaching out only to job candidates who already have jobs.

They call it discrimination against the unemployed.

“What you do is create a permanent class of unemployable people, and to me that is totally unacceptable,” said Chicago Alderman Ameya Pawar, who is proposing a city law to ban the practice.

The trend was spotted with online ads and highlighted by the National Employment Law Project.

“We were really surprised to find well over 100 ads that explicitly stated that the unemployed won’t be considered. ... Certainly, if you see a hundred ads, it’s probably happening in thousands and thousands more,” organization spokesperson Judi Conti said.

Activists say that discrimination against the unemployed hits blacks and Hispanics harder than whites.

“Black Americans are nearly twice as likely to be unemployed as White Americans,” says Rashad Robinson, with Color of Change.

Legislators jumped into action. Chicago is proposing a city law to combat the practice. Illinois legislators are working on a bill, and New Jersey already passed one. The U.S. House and Senate have jumped into action, and President Obama is including discrimination against the unemployed in his American Jobs Act.

But cue another set of critics: Michael Saltsman with the Employment Policies Institute says the claims of unemployment discrimination are overblown. All the legislation is a knee-jerk reaction when the National Employment Law Project only produced 150 examples from a sea of roughly 3 million want ads that get posted online every month.

“I think the problem is more spin than substance,” Saltsman said.

On top of that, Saltsman said, the new laws could turn the unemployed into a protected class on par with disabled people and minorities.

“If legislation is passed like this, that actually ends up preventing employers from hiring because they’re scared if they don’t give someone the job they’ll be sued for discrimination against the unemployed,” Saltsman said.