There's a growing trend of employers refusing to consider the unemployed for job openings, according to a number of people who testified Wednesday before the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
They say employers are barring the unemployed from job openings, which is particularly unfair to older workers and African-Americans because more of them are unemployed.
"Excluding unemployed workers from employment opportunities is unfair to workers, bad for the economy, and potentially violates basic civil rights protections because of the disparate impact on older workers, workers of color, women and others," Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, testified.
Several examples of discriminatory help-wanted ads were offered: a Texas electronics company said online that it would "not consider/review anyone NOT currently employed regardless of the reason"; an ad for a restaurant manager position in New Jersey said applicants must be employed; a phone manufacturer's job announcement said "No Unemployed Candidates Will Be Considered At All," according to Helen Norton, associate professor at the University of Colorado School of Law.
Even if the companies pull the language from their ads, many still discriminate against the unemployed, Owens said. The long-term unemployed are perhaps in the worst shape; employers worry that their skills are outdated and pass over them for positions, which means they are unemployed for even longer and have more difficulty finding work.
"The use of an individual's current or recent unemployment status as a hiring selection device is a troubling development in the labor market," said Fatima Goss Graves, vice president for education and employment at the National Women's Law Center.
More than 6 million Americans have been unemployed for more than 27 weeks. The unemployment rate for African-Americans is 15.7 percent, compared with a U.S. unemployment rate of 9 percent.