N.J. tries to check increase in discrimination against unemployed

Recent reports identify more employers who want to hire only those who already have a job. Some employers will state current or recent employment as a requirement of the job. Others will instruct human resource recruiters not to consider unemployed candidates.

New Jersey State Assemblywoman Celeste Riley sponsored a bill earlier this year making it illegal for employers to put such requirements in job postings. It’s the first of its kind in the country.

Since the law took effect June 1, any N.J. employer who does so will be fined up to $5,000 for the first violation and $1,000 for additional violations.

“We have countless residents that have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. To have these ads out it just adds insult to injury,” Riley said.

Some Assembly members voted against the bill, claiming it put too many restrictions on employers. Other critics of the legislation say it does not go far enough. They say it only bans discrimination in advertisements, not the practice itself.

Riley. However, said it’s a start.

“As a state, what we can say is we find this unacceptable. You can’t control how everyone, how some people will react or do it subversively, let’s put it that way. We can say we don’t find it acceptable,” she says.

Judy Conti, federal advocacy coordinator with the National Employment Law Project, said her organization started noticing discrimination against the unemployed late last year on sites such as Monster and CareerBuilder.

“It just strikes me as something that is ignorant at best and, at the risk of sounding hyperbolic, is un-American considering the kind of recession we’re coming out of and the way that we should all be working for a recovery,” she said.

Conti said employers can use three filters. First, they can require current or recent employment in the job description. Second, they can demand job seekers fill out “current employment” on an online application before they can proceed. Or third, and most prevalent, they use HR recruiters who will not consider unemployed candidates.

For instance, a Pennsylvania medical sales manager position that was posted by a recruiting firm stated “must be currently employed” under the requirements. More recent listings from the same firm exclude this language. Conti is pushing for national legislation.

Federal legislation on the subject has been introduced in Congress.

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