President Obama’s jobs bill contains a clause that would prohibit employers with 15 or more employees from discriminating against unemployed job seekers. The provision is modeled after similar legislation introduced in Connecticut and California, and would place unemployed candidates in a protected class, thus allowing them to seek damages if they’re denied employment because of their status.
The idea is opposed by several lawmakers and Michael J. Eastman, executive director of labor law policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, as unnecessary legislation that will only create more work and legal expenses for companies.
The problem is that almost half of the country’s 14 million unemployed have been out of work for 27 weeks or more, and it seems that many employers are giving them the short shrift.
Let’s face it: Employers invite additional scrutiny and new legislation when they openly declare on Internet job postings that unemployed candidates won’t be considered and when they use myths instead of facts to make quick judgments about groups of people.
So what can you do to make sure your company isn’t unfairly discriminating against unemployed candidates?
- Stick to the requirements and don’t eliminate anyone based upon their employment status.
- Ask all candidates similar job-related questions, especially during initial phone screens and first interviews.
- Coach line managers and challenge popular myths about the stale skills and undesirable qualities of unemployed job seekers.
- Give unemployed candidates a chance to explain why they haven’t been working and what they’ve been doing to keep their skills current.
- If you have concerns about unemployed professionals, start them out on a contract or part-time basis or ask them to complete a refresher course or boot camp on their own time within the first 90 days of employment.
You may find that an unemployed candidate will end up being a loyal, hard-working employee. How can that be bad?