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EEOC Discusses Treatment Of Unemployed Job Applicants

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission held a hearing yesterday to discuss how employers have been treating unemployed job applicants.

Or more to the point, how employers prefer job applicants who are currently employed over job applicants who have been laid-off or otherwise are not working at the moment. The official lingo for this practice is "excluding unemployed persons from applicant pools."

Some employers are setting up this exclusion by saying in job postings that only the presently employed need apply. Needless to say, this practice isn't going over so well in the Great Recession where everyone knows at least one unemployed job seeker. From an EEOC statement:
“At a moment when we all should be doing whatever we can to open up job opportunities to the unemployed, it is profoundly disturbing that the trend of deliberately excluding the jobless from work opportunities is on the rise,” said Christine Owens, Executive Director of the National Employment Law Project. In addition to presenting statistical evidence, she recounted stories unemployed workers have shared with her organization where they were told directly that they would not be considered for employment due to being unemployed."

But if this is really going on -- some who testified doubted the severity of the problem, or whether it's even happening -- what is the remedy to be? Tell companies they can no longer exclude the unemployed from applying? Require companies to interview unemployed job applicants? Companies would cite such requirements as unfair and burdensome, for starters. Companies would also make a valid skills argument: Why hire an unemployed person with rusty skills when we can hire an applicant who is using those skills on the job every day, will require less training and could boost overall productivity more quickly?

It's always been easier to get a new job when you're currently employed -- nothing new there -- but considering the scale and depth of this recession employers might want to rethink the scarlet "U" they're placing on unemployed applicants.

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