COLUMBUS, OH – On the heels of a recent report from the National Employment Law Project (NELP) detailing an increasing number of employers refusing to consider unemployed Americans for open jobs, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) called for swift passage of legislation that would bar this discrimination against jobless workers. Brown visited Central Ohio Workforce Investment Corporation (COWIC) on Friday where he was joined by Michael Harmon, a central Ohio man who has been seeking employment for more than a year.
“The best way to get our economy back on track is also the best way to reduce our deficit: putting people back to work,” Brown said. “There are millions of Americans who would rather be paying taxes than collecting unemployment insurance. Americans who work hard and play by the rules— but lose a job through no fault of their own—deserve a fair chance at the next one.”
Brown outlined the Fair Employment Opportunity Act of 2011, legislation that would make it illegal for employers and employment agencies to unfairly discriminate against unemployed job seekers, a counterproductive practice that persists in spite of high unemployment rates. According to NELP’s report, American employers, staffing agencies, and online job posting sites are using recruitment and hiring policies that expressly deny unemployed Americans from being considered for positions due to the fact that they are not currently working.
Brown was joined by Suzanne Coleman-Tolbert, President and C.E.O. of COWIC, where Harmon is receiving job placement assistance.
“At COWIC, we see an average of 1200 new job seekers a month, many of whom have lost a job due to no fault of their own,” Coleman said. “With many job seekers facing the expiration of their unemployment benefits at the end of this year, the need to eliminate the barriers to employment and get central Ohioans back to work is urgent.”
“It doesn’t make sense,” Harmon said. “If you have skills you should be given a chance. There are a number of solid, capable people looking for jobs. They deserve and I deserve the opportunity to get back in the workforce.”
The Fair Employment Opportunity Act of 2011 would make it unlawful for an employer to a) refuse to consider for employment or refuse to offer employment to an individual because he/she is unemployed, b) include in any job advertisement or posting a provision that unemployed persons will not be considered or hired, or c) direct or request that an employment agency take into account an individual’s unemployed status in screening or referring applicants for employment.
More than 14 million Americans are unemployed, and according to NELP, more than six million of those have been jobless for longer than six months. There are nearly five unemployed jobseekers for each new job opening. Research conducted by NELP identified dozens of job listings from popular job-seeking websites such as CareerBuilder.com, Craigslist.org, and Monster.com excluding unemployed candidates from applying for jobs. According to NELP, the overwhelming majority of ads containing discriminatory language required that applicants “must be currently employed.” Additionally, the discriminatory ads identified by NELP spanned across small, medium, and large employers—and for jobs at every skill level—suggesting that the practice of discriminating against jobless Americans could be more prevalent than NELP’s report indicates.