Latest Unemployment Claims Down, But Discrimination Holding Steady

As we noted in a previous blog post last November, discrimination against the unemployed has been an issue that is becoming more of a concern nationwide. Huffington Post reported on January 23, 2012, that lawmakers here in California are seeking to make the Golden State the second state in the nation to ban this form of employment discrimination.

Democratic Assemblyman Michael Allen introduced a bill on January 5, 2012, that would not allow unemployed job-seekers to sue for discrimination, but could subject companies violating the law to an investigation and fines of up to $10,000, according to the Post. In a one-month study last year, the National Employment Law Project, a national advocacy organization, found more than 125 online job postings requiring candidates to be “currently employed.”

As the Post noted, New Jersey was the first state to enact such a law in April 2011. The Garden State’s measure allows employers to consider employment status in hiring, but cannot specifically bar the unemployed from applying. The employers violating the ban face a $1,000 fine with penalties rising to $5,000 for subsequent offenses. The Post also mentioned that Democratic members of Congress and President Barack Obama have also called attention to discrimination against the unemployed, but have not been able to gain any traction in Congress for such measures.

While we frequently discuss issues regarding discrimination at work, this issue with discrimination against the unemployed does not seem to be slowing down. While reports at the beginning of February indicated that unemployment claims fell to a near four-year low, it is important to remember that more than 618,000 Californians have exhausted their 99 weeks of unemployment benefits. Worse yet, that maximum is likely to fall as a result of the payroll tax cut deal reached by Congress on February 15, 2012. With 5.5 million Americans having been out of work for more than six months, we believe that now would be time to enact a law that assures the unemployed they are, at the very least, being given fair consideration.

Kesluk, Silverstein & Jacob – Los Angeles employment lawyers