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Alison Doyle

Discrimination Against Unemployed Workers

By February 16, 2011

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Are unemployed workers discriminated against? It's hard to know definitively, but there are surveys that report that the longer you are out of work the harder it is to find a job and the long-term unemployed accounted for 43.8% of the unemployed last month, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Testifyng before the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, said that "Practices barring the unemployed from job availabilities have been growing around the country- and place a disproportionate burden on older workers, African Americans, and other workers facing high levels of long-term unemployment."

The NELP reports "---exclusion of unemployed workers from consideration for jobs began to emerge early last summer: A global phone manufacturer posted a job announcement for a marketing position that explicitly said 'No Unemployed Candidates Will Be Considered At All'; a Texas electronics company's online listing said it would 'not consider/review anyone NOT currently employed regardless of the reason'; an ad for restaurant managers in New Jersey said applicants 'Must be currently employed'."

Testifying at the same hearing, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) said it was unaware of widespread recruiting practices that discriminate against the unemployed. Testifying on behalf of SHRM -Fernán R. Cepero, PHR, vice president human resources of the YMCA of Greater Rochester, N.Y., said "Human-resource professionals recognize that a blanket exclusion of the unemployed among candidates being considered for job openings raises concerns under federal law that prohibits employment discrimination.

"What's more," he added, "exclusionary policies are poor business practices because they prevent organizations from accessing some of the best available knowledge, skills and abilities in a given labor force. In addition to looking at work experience, skill sets, professionalism, passion for the job, and other factors, SHRM encourages its members to make specific efforts to target and hire from diverse groups of candidates."

When you have been out of work for a significant length of time it's harder to be a competitive candidate - especially in a very competitive job market.  Your resume has a big employment gap, which can be hard to explain.  Your skills may be considered out-dated, even after only a year or so out of the workforce. 

When you read the stories unemployed workers have shared with us, there seems to be a trend of older and long-term unemployed workers having a tough time.

What do you think? Are the unemployed discriminated against? And if you believe you have been discriminated against because you've been out of work, please share your discrimination story.

Related: Unemployment Benefits | Unemployment Extension | Unemployment Compensation 

February 16, 2011 at 7:53 pm
(1) Joanna Wolfe says:

I recently blogged on this topic:

Smart CEOs are Hiring the Unemployed (or at least they should be ) – http://www.jwjobblog.com/jwjobblog/2011/01/17/smart-ceos/

While terrifically short sighted to exclude the unemployed from consideration, I want to say that it is far better for the unemployed worker that they know this information up front so they don’t waste the hours preparing a submission to a company only to have it rejected due to employment status.

Sure, it’s hard to hear – but it is one more thing that people who are unemployed can use in THEIR selection process of companies to apply to.

The people who are de-selecting candidates due to unemployment status are really shooting themselves in the foot as they are perpetuating the problems with the economy as a result of their choice.

February 21, 2011 at 10:56 am
(2) Jeff Anthony says:

I would like to agree with Ms. Wolfe. I was aghast at some of the postings discriminating towards unemployed candidates. I, myself, have been unemployed for almost a year now, but with the support from my family and the government, I have taken the time to return to school and attain my degree, which appears is needed for almost any job now.
In addition, I find people out of work for a while more eager to learn new skills and develop aptitudes, which attributes towards increased productivity and loyalty towards the company.

February 16, 2011 at 10:05 pm
(3) Carl Mueller says:

While working in IT recruitment I often noticed certain clients who wanted only employed candidates to consider for their open jobs but as the economy went south or even following Y2K when many IT pros were out of work, fewer and fewer hiring managers had a problem with looking at unemployed people.

It can depend on what the person who is unemployed has been doing while unemployed. Were they doing something productive that they can point to (schooling, part time work) or not?

Interestingly, I also came across hiring managers who when they needed someone urgently, only wanted to see people who were out of work and who could therefore start a new job right away!


February 21, 2011 at 12:43 pm
(4) Bob says:

I am very surprised when I hear “transfer skills” or “part-time work”.
If there are already many people with the skills competing for a few jobs, how some one who is transeferring his skills expect to have any chance?
Part-time work, I can tell from my own experience that it is no easier than looking for a full time job.
Age has been a big problem for me, the phone interview goes well it sounds like a have chance, than comes the in person interview even with recruiters, It’s very subtle but some of them just want to get it over with.
After over a year of searching, professionally written resume, many interviews, many workshops and reading every how to and what to do; I still has not bee able to go to next round let alone landing any type of work.
It may sound like I am overly sensitive or discouraged, no I am not it is just a harsh reality that we have have to deal with. Every day I wake up I go on looking for work and I will keep doing it untill I find one and I hope every one that is reading this comment will do the same.

February 21, 2011 at 3:34 pm
(5) aj says:

Yes, unemployed (especially long-term) are commonly passively discriminated against, and occasionally actively. It’s no coincidence that it comprises almost half the total unemployed, and no coincidence that a majority of these people are over 40 years old, and largely professional, experienced workers.


I have seen ads from companies (including some from Microsoft, but almost every company) that require professional applicants to have been employed recently or within the past 6 months. Even more common than the open declaration are ads insisting on X years experience with an industrial tool that the applicant must have been using “professionally” in the past Y months. Same thing.

Tactics like that are horrible way of screening people, is discrimination based on economic circumstance, and certainly is not going to get you the best person for the job. It makes you wonder who’s behind the wheel.

Considering many of these companies caused the unemployment problem in the first place through mass layoffs, it is conceited and socially insulated for hiring managers to assume it is the job seeker’s fault for not being employed.

I think they should be held accountable to a set of decision-making standards under the law, and should be sued for the damage they have done to thousands of lives.

April 18, 2011 at 3:11 pm
(6) Beth says:

The U.S. Government is discriminating in this manner by stating on their job postings that “recency” of experience is considered in the hiring process.

April 18, 2011 at 3:13 pm
(7) Beth Murphy says:

The U.S. Government (USA Jobs) is discriminating in this manner by stating in their job postings that “recency of experience” is a factor in the hiring decision.

August 13, 2011 at 12:42 pm
(8) Inge Kutt Lewis says:

I’ve been unemployed for more than four years and gained a lot of insight in how to survive under stressful conditions. How can this not be important experience in this day and age, especially to employers?

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