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Unemployment Discrimination?

Since the start of the Great Recession in late 2007, many people who lost their jobs have been struggling to reenter the workforce. Making things more difficult, employers have shown a growing prejudice against unemployed job seekers. Some have gone so far as to flatly state that the unemployed need not apply.

New Jersey legislators stepped up to curb this practice. In 2011, New Jersey made history by enacting a first-of-its-kind ban on job advertisements that make current employment a requirement for applicants. Employers who violate the law face a $1,000 civil penalty for a first offense, $5,000 for a second offense and $10,000 for a third or subsequent offense.

Unfortunately, the law still has weaknesses:

  • While the law levies civil fines, it does not give job applicants an individual right to sue.
  • The law prohibits discriminatory advertisements but does not actually prevent employers from considering employment status during the hiring process.

Around the time New Jersey put its law into effect, federal legislators proposed amendments to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that would add the unemployed to the list of classes that receive protection under federal employment law.

This bill would go much further than New Jersey’s new law by:

  • Prohibiting covered employers from considering employment status
  • Giving individuals who are denied jobs because of their unemployment status the right to file charges of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission —and to ultimately file private suits in federal court with the help of an employment discrimination lawyer.
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