News & Politics

New Legislation Goes After Employers Who Discriminate Against Unemployed Applicants


Some employers are sending a clear message through their job postings to those who most need work: If you’re unemployed, stay away.

But it may be a bit more difficult for employers in New York City to reject the unemployed, if legislation introduced today at City Hall passes. This legislation would prohibit employers from using a person’s job status in hiring decisions and would ban “help-wanted” ads from stating that the unemployed will not be considered and shouldn’t bother applying.

The legislation basically says that rejecting unemployed applicants for a job because they are currently unemployed is a form of discrimination that makes it difficult for those who lost their jobs during the tough economy to find much-needed work again.

“The longer they stay unemployed, the harder it becomes for them to find work,” said City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, at a press conference inside City Hall this afternoon, standing beside larger posters of job ads where employers say they aren’t interested in seeing applications from the unemployed. “Some employers are openly screening out job applicants based on a person’s unemployment status.

Reps from the City Council gave reporters printouts of these kinds of ads, which say things like, “Candidate will have a steady work history, be currently employed,” or, “Candidate should be currently employed on a permanent basis.” Quinn noted that an informal survey last year over a four-week period found that more than 150 job postings on major job websites had this kind of exclusionary language.

“The clear message here is that unemployed need not apply,” she said.

Quinn repeatedly thanked Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, her likely competitor in the 2013 mayoral race, who raised this issue last October.

Quinn also announced this proposal at her State of the City address last month.

“Having a job should not be a requirement for getting a job,” Stringer said. “We have a real economic crisis in the city. People of all different walks of life are out there looking for a job…And yet how disheartening is it when you go online and basically it says, ‘Don’t even think about coming to us for help.'”

In January, the city’s unemployment rate rose to a 16-month high of 9.3% up from 9.1% in December — one percentage point higher than the nationwide rate. The rate for blacks is around 13.6% and 10% for Hispanics. Statistics show that nationally a large portion of the unemployed are those who are without a job long-term, according to City Hall. The speakers noted that screening the unemployed thus disproportionately hurts minority residents.

In practice, the legislation — sponsored by Council members Leroy Comrie and Vincent Gentile — would allow applicants who feel they have been discriminated against to report it to the city’s Human Rights Commission, which could potentially lead to some kind of fine.

After one reporter asked Quinn whether or not she thought this kind of legislation would really make a difference — would employers actually abide by it or would they still ultimately reject the unemployed during the interview process? — she said it’s a step in the right direction. In addition to allowing job-seekers to file complaints about employers, she said, the legislation is designed “to send a message that this behavior is no longer acceptable…Does that always cause behavior to change over night? We would love to say it does, but we know it doesn’t. But it begins a process.”


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