NEW YORK (MainStreet) — As far as many U.S. companies are concerned, if you’re one of the more than 14 million Americans currently out of work, don’t even bother applying for a job.
Dozens of organizations including Allstate Insurance, the Homebuilding Recruiters of America and at least one BMW dealer have explicitly stated in their job postings that applicants must be “currently employed” in order to be considered, according to the National Employment Law Project’s review of job openings posted to four popular listing websites during a four-week period earlier this year.
Even several universities, which one might assume to be more understanding, were found to use this kind of language, including Johns Hopkins University, the University of Arizona and Lakeshore Technical College.
The report’s release was timed to coincide with the introduction of the Fair Employment Opportunity Act of 2011 in Congress, which would crack down on this phenomenon by preventing employers and staffing agencies from refusing candidates simply because they are unemployed, just as companies are not allowed to refuse candidates based on the color of their skin.
“This pernicious practice adds a tremendous burden for unemployed workers as they look for jobs,” said Christine Owens, executive director of NELP, in a statement. “For the millions of jobless Americans struggling to climb out of the deepest jobs hole in many decades, nothing can be more demoralizing than the double-whammy of losing a job and then learning they will not be considered for new positions because they are not currently working.”
The researchers scoured job openings posted to Careerbuilder.com, Indeed.com, Monster.com and Craigslist for listings that discriminated against the unemployed between March 9 and April 5 of this year. While the language varied slightly from one posting to the next, the meaning appears abundantly clear.
In one listing for a research program supervisor, Johns Hopkins University noted that the candidate “must be currently employed.” Bond Street Group Recruitment was even more specific, writing in a posting for an executive assistant that the candidate should be “currently employed on a permanent basis.”
In a few rare cases, the companies suggested they would consider an unemployed candidate, but only if he or she was only “recently” unemployed. Unfortunately, that probably won’t help the 6 million-plus Americans who have been out of work for more than six months.
That some employers might view a candidate who is currently employed as stronger than one who isn’t might not come as much of a surprise, but the fact that so many companies have effectively prohibited the unemployed outright in recent months is striking.
As the NELP speculates in its report, part of the incentive for businesses to discriminate against the unemployed at the outset is simply a matter of expedience, writing that “with so many applicants for every job opening, screening out the unemployed or the long-term unemployed is a convenient device for reducing the workload associated with the hiring process.”
Yet, given that some 16% of the country is either unemployed or underemployed, this policy severely restricts the talent pool that companies can consider, and, if adopted by enough businesses, makes it that much harder for the country as a whole to bring down the unemployment rate.
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