Contributed by Samantha Esmond
In March, the District of Columbia enacted the first law in the nation to prohibit discrimination against unemployed job applicants. The Unemployed Anti-Discrimination Act of 2012, signed by Mayor Vincent C. Gray, makes it unlawful for employers and employment agencies to consider the employment status of a job applicant in making employment and hiring decisions. This law also bars employers from indicating in a job advertisement that unemployed individuals are either disqualified for the job or that unemployed individuals will not be considered or hired for the vacant position. Employers who violate this law will be subject to civil penalties not to exceed $20,000 per violation.
While the District of Columbia is certainly at the forefront, passage of similar laws may become a national trend. With the unemployment rate still hovering around 8%, more and more states may be considering passage of similar laws.
The California assembly is currently considering passage of a similar bill. Assembly Bill 1450 introduced on January 5, 2012 by Assembly Member Allen, would make it unlawful for an employer, employment agency, or person who operates an internet website for posting jobs in California to refuse to hire a person because of that person’s employment status. California AB 1450 further prohibits the publishing of an advertisement or announcement for any job that includes provisions stating or indicating that a person’s current employment is a requirement for a job or that unemployed applicants will be not considered based on that person’s employment status.
Other state legislatures, such as Michigan, with Senate Bill No. 606 titled “The Fair Consideration of the Unemployed Act,” are currently considering laws which prohibit discrimination against unemployed job applicants in job advertisements and postings. States such as Oregon and New Jersey have previously enacted laws that prohibit discrimination against the unemployed in job advertisements. As recently as March 27, 2012, the Governor of Oregon signed off on Senate Bill 1548. This new Oregon state law prohibits employers from including language in a job advertisement indicating that someone who is unemployed “should not apply” or “will not be considered” for the position.