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Unemployed? Don’t Bother Applying Here

Written by StaffingTalk

Unemployed? Don’t Bother Applying HereApparently some people are putting that line in their job listings.

Unfair but not completely illegal, some employers have supposedly been stipulating in job postings that unemployed individuals need not apply.

Some reasons for this discrimination: concerns over “atrophied” job skills from lack of use, and the question of whether or not the person is employable if they were let go from a previous job.

This caused Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) to push for legislation called the Fair Employment Act of 2011, which would include the unemployed on the Civil Rights Act Title VII’s list of protected job applicants who cannot be discriminated against.

Johnson’s bill, which is co-sponsored by Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., asks that it be illegal for employers to deny a job to, or decrease the compensation of, an individual due to employment status.

The National Employment Law Project (NELP), an organization dedicated to fighting for economic opportunity and workers’ rights, is investigating claims of unemployment discrimination. NELP’s federal advocacy coordinator, Judy Conti, told Staffing Talk that anonymous sources have pointed fingers at staffing agencies.

However, it is unclear which staffing companies, if any, have actually engaged in this behavior.

Unemployed? Don’t Bother Applying HereThough she declined to give specific examples, Conti said she has heard some companies will ask that recruiters only send them the resumes of employed individuals. “Would a company get away with asking for only females, or only African-American applicants?” Conti asks rhetorically.

“You can’t exclude the unemployed just because they are unemployed,” Conti said. “There are so many reasons that people have lost their jobs in this economy.”

“It is among staffing firms that the process seems to be most rampant and virulent,” Conti said. “It’s the best way for this to fly beneath the radar.”

Stephen Dwyer, general counsel for the American Staffing Association, begs to differ.

Dwyer told Staffing Talk that the ASA was made aware of the issue by the EEOC on the matter, and on speaking with a number of its staffing members, ASA was told the companies were “uniformly unaware of any such request” for employed applicants only.

Dwyer did say that the EEOC pointed to one unnamed firm that apparently posted an ad saying they preferred employed applicants, but added, “That is by far the exception. It is not representative by the majority of the staffing firms.

The uniform response was that we don’t engage in this behavior. I think the vast majority of the firms are not engaging in this behavior.”

When asked if there might be some underhanded discrimination going on among other firms, Dwyer was firm in saying this was not the case.

Unemployed? Don’t Bother Applying HereAlthough there will always be outlying firms that “march to the beat of their own drum,” Dwyer said this “is not, by any means, the majority practice.”

In fact, Dwyer said, “One of our major benefits is to educate our members so as to keep them out of trouble and … to protect the rights of our workers.”

New Jersey has paved the way for other states, having just passed the first law of this kind. I can’t help but wonder if this is a real problem or just a political publicity stunt.

Any company convicted of this doing this could face up to $1,000 for a first offense and $5,000, subsequently.

Have you ever seen a company do this before? Everyone I ask says “no.” I’ve never seen this even once in my life. If it is so rampant, why can’t anyone tell us one company that’s done it? Just one example, anywhere?

Do your customers prefer people that are already employed? If so, tell us why!

{ 0 comments… read them below or add one }
  1. Loren Adams

    It seems to me that this kind of thing can be a by-product of an aggressive recruiting strategy. In a competitive field like IT, staffing firms can value “passive” job seekers – e.g. the ones who are already employed somewhere and aren’t advertising themselves – more highly than those who are advertising (and therefore more likely to be unemployed).

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  2. gregg dourgarian

    No professional person should position themselves as ‘unemployed’.

    It is not unethical to proclaim oneself a consultant or owner of a services business. Further, an engaged person can easily find pro-bono services to perform for others which both keeps him/her active and serves as a testimony to an industrious work ethic.

    As an aside, last year the government granted a tax break to businesses that hired an unemployed person. This raised the stigma of unemployment to a higher degree and made it part of the hiring decision, and therefore much like most EEO regulation served to discriminate against the very people it intended to help.

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    • Tim

      RE: No professional person should position themselves as ‘unemployed’. – They should if they don’t want to go to jail or be investigated for unemployment compensation fraud.

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      • Tim

        Also… lying on an application is not only dishonest… but grounds for immediate termination. Who are you people? You don’t fight wrong with wrong. We need protection from this kind of stuff even though we have ways to handle it.

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  3. Regan Kohler

    That definitely makes sense, Gregg, and I agree with the pro bono strategy, which in my opinion people should pursue whether employed or not. It is too easy to let skills “atrophy” (I liked that the article I found put it in that term) when unemployed, and might end up costing the company that does hire the person if they have to be “retrained.”

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  4. Rebecca Moxley

    The Reference Store, a Virtual Referencing Firm, provides a way to get around this problem. They will build a Virtual (Fake) company for you to use as a reference. Their Worldwide service has helped 1,000′s of clients get back to work. They even have Employer “Targeting” to allow you to pick the employer you want to work for; They’ll develop a reference specifically to put you in the best position to be hired. The Reference Store is nothing short of amazing. They even provide services to the Homeless for free!

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  5. Trevor

    Actually it is totally legal for an employer to tell a staffing agency not to send them any unemployed applicants. One reason many companies use staffing agencies is because it is legal for the staffing agency to ask all kinds of questions about marital status, number of kids, health status, etc., etc. because they are trying to find the applicant a job.

    What they are really doing is weeding out the people that the corporate HR doesn’t want to waste time on and shielding corporate the company from discrimination suits. A friend of mine who owned a mom and pop staffing agency used to make a very good living screening applicants people for a major tobacco company. They would tell him what they wanted and he would advertise the job and find several suitable applicants and send them to the company to be interviewed.

    If they told him they wanted a cleancut, blonde, blue eyed, caucasian male who was at least 6′ tall …he would advertise the position and interview a bunch of applicants, then he forwarded only the resumes of those who fit the description of what the company was looking for to HR. Sure it was discrimination but the company could not be sued because they only interviewed the applicants who were referred to them by the staffing agency. The other applicants who were not referred didn’t even know what company the job they were interviewing for was with. The staffing agency could not be sued for discrimination because the company HR dept. made the actual hiring decision…he just forwarded them a stack of resumes and they decided who they wanted to hire.

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    • A!!yson

      HR companies are sleazy. I would have to be very desperate and have time on my hands to even considering wasting it on a staffing agency. I have learned to read between the lines of their vague phone messages or emails. Anything that isn’t specific enough is a red flag.

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