While the epic battle over the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act rages in the U.S. Senate, our elected representatives ought to consider that the “long-term unemployed” are a product of discrimination on the part of employers.
Discrimination? Say what?
You heard right.
Let’s assume that just as soon as you get over the shock of being laid off, you begin looking for another job in earnest. Does your chance of getting hired increase or decrease once you are out of work?
Looking at this question from the point of view of the employer, there are at least two schools of thought on whether or not it is a good idea to hire the unemployed.
- Hire the unemployed!
- The unemployed face all kinds of financial pressure and are eager to work to avoid losing their families and ending up out on the street.
- The unemployed aren’t in a position to be picky and are willing to perform difficult, onerous, repetitive or dirty jobs at which others would turn up their noses.
- The unemployed are willing to work on the cheap. After all, something is better than nothing, particularly when you can no longer put food on the table.
- The unemployed are available immediately — no two week notice and all that!
- Heavens no, don’t hire the unemployed! (Also known as “to get a job, you gotta have a job.”)
- Don’t even bother. The unemployed are so desperate, they apply for jobs for which they are overqualified or underqualified. What a waste of time!
- The unemployed are just looking for a stopgap job. They’ll just leave as soon as they find something better. Instead, hire someone who already has a job. If an applicant is willing to leave his or her job to come work for us, you know this person is serious!
- The unemployed are “scarred.” These broken, dispirited people have been beaten down to the point where they have lost the will to succeed at any job. During their time out of work, their skills have atrophied, they’ve missed out on technical updates and the only thing they’re good at anymore is sitting on their asses in front of the TV.
- The unemployed tend to have health and family problems that will only end up costing the company money.
So, who’s right?
Word is that some employers have an informal policy of turning down the applications of anyone who is out of work. And there are some employers who make no bones about it: They have the guts to include a caveat in their employment ads that the unemployed need not apply.
If this sounds a lot like discrimination, that’s because it is. And it’s perfectly legal.
This is what I call the “purple” type of discrimination. If an employer loathes the color purple, he or she violates no law by kicking out any applicant who walks in wearing purple. In other words, unemployment (like wearing purple garments) is not a “protected class” (like race, gender and disability, for example) under federal law, giving employers the right to discriminate to their heart’s content without legal consequence.
In 2012, the legislature in my home state of California voted in favor of a bill that would make discrimination against the unemployed illegal. However, the measure failed to become law when Governor Jerry Brown vetoed it.
The bottom line is that the unemployed tend to be looked at with suspicion by potential employers.
Not too long ago, when I found myself in a company’s lovely conference room to be interviewed by a panel of managers, I decided to relax and “just be myself.” After all, I knew that I had excellent qualifications for the job. So I explained to the panel how I became laid off when my previous employer had to resort to a reduction in force due to severe financial difficulties. There were three rounds of layoffs, during which I lost most of the employees who I managed before losing my own job in the last of the rounds.
I wasn’t hired.
After all, who knows why an applicant really became unemployed? Sure, they’ll tell you a good story, but who knows whether they’re telling you the truth? Could be that the employee engaged in unethical practices, robbed the company blind, committed sexual harassment or was caught sleeping on the job. You can reference check from here to Timbuktu, but no former employer will ever admit to any of these things for fear of being sued.
With this attitude on the part of employers, the unemployed, who already ended up on the losing end of the stick once, are guaranteed to be the losers again and again.
And our senators wonder why millions of Americans can’t find a job during their initial 26-week period of state benefits?
We must at least consider that employers may be the ones responsible for causing laid off workers to become the “long termers” that Senate Republicans find so repugnant.
Cohen, Adam, “Jobless Discrimination? When Firms Won’t Even Consider Hiring Anyone Unemployed,” Time (May 23, 2011). http://content.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2073520,00.html
Gordon, Clare, “Employer Explains Why He Won’t Hire the Unemployed,” AOL Jobs (Oct. 12, 2012). http://jobs.aol.com/articles/2012/10/12/employer-explains-why-he-wont-hire-the-unemployed/
Lemieux, Scott, “We Don’t Hire the Unemployed,” Lawyers, Guns & Money Blog (Nov. 18, 2012). http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2013/11/we-don%E2%80%99t-hire-the-unemployed
Lucas, Suzanne, “Unemployed? 5 Reasons Companies Won’t Hire You,” CBS Money (July 27, 2011). http://www.cbsnews.com/news/unemployed-5-reasons-companies-wont-hire-you/
Rampell, Catherine, “The Help-Wanted Sign Comes with a Frustrating Asterisk,” New York Times (Business Day, July 25, 2011). http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/26/business/help-wanted-ads-exclude-the-long-term-jobless.html?_r=0
Smooke, David, “10 Reasons to Hire the Unemployed,” Smart Recruiters Blog. http://www.smartrecruiters.com/blog/10-reasons-to-hire-the-unemployed/