As the recession has deepened, many newly unemployed Americans have found that it is almost impossible to get a job, especially if they have been out of work for more than a year. This is because employers discriminate against the unemployed, often viewing them as rejects and poor workers that their previous employers got rid of for a reason. Jobless Americans become trapped in a cycle of unemployment and have little recourse, since it’s perfectly legal to discriminate against unemployed job applicants.
Fortunately, the situation may finally change if President Obama’s jobs bill is passed by Congress.
Mr. Obama’s jobs bill would prohibit employers from discriminating against job applicants because they are unemployed. Under the proposal, it would be “an unlawful employment practice” if a business with 15 or more employees refused to hire a person “because of the individual’s status as unemployed.” Unsuccessful job applicants could sue and recover damages for violations, just like when an employer discriminates on the basis of a person’s race, color, religion, sex or national origin.
This protection for the unemployed is long overdue, given how many Americans have lost their jobs in the latest economic downturn.
The Labor Department reports that 14 million people are unemployed. About 43 percent of them — 6 million people — are classified as long-term unemployed, having been out of work for 27 weeks or more. Of that group, nearly 4.5 million have been unemployed for a year or more. The average duration of unemployment among jobless workers is 40 weeks, the longest in more than 60 years.