Have a general question about employment law? Want to share a story? I welcome all comments and questions. I can't give legal advice here about specific situations but will be glad to discuss general issues and try to point you in the right direction. If you need legal advice, contact an employment lawyer in your state. Remember, anything you post here will be seen publicly, and I will comment publicly on it. It will not be confidential. Govern yourself accordingly. If you want to communicate with me confidentially as Donna Ballman, Florida lawyer rather than as Donna Ballman, blogger, my firm's website is here.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Can My Potential Employer Discriminate Against Me Just Because I’m Unemployed?

Unless you live in New Jersey, the answer is yes. New Jersey is the only state in the nation so far that has passed a law against unemployment discrimination. The EEOC held hearings on the issue because they are concerned this type of discrimination might also have an adverse impact on minorities, older employees, the disabled, and women. As an example, African-American and Hispanic unemployment rates are much higher than Anglo unemployment rates.
 
            Still, many employers refuse to even consider you for unemployment unless you have a current job. You’d think in a climate with huge unemployment rates hovering around 10% that employers would realize they’re eliminating a large segment of qualified candidates, but HR is slow to change its practices, even in a recession.

            The good news is that the Fair Employment Act, pending in Congress, would prohibit this type of discrimination. New York also has pending proposed legislation to ban unemployment discrimination. I predict that more states will follow. With states trying to cut the number of people collecting unemployment, it makes pure fiscal sense to ban this type of discrimination.

            Donna’s tips:

a.       If you see an ad that says you must be employed to be considered, but you think you’re qualified, apply anyhow. If you’re turned down for a less qualified candidate, then find out if that person is of a different race, age, sex, national origin, etc. If so, you might have a discrimination claim.

b.      Some people are forming their own companies while unemployed to do consulting or other contract work. That way, you can say you’re employed by your company. The downside is that this might affect your ability to collect unemployment benefits, so check with your state unemployment office about this.

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