The following article was originally published last year, yet it remains relevant today. Currently, some employers continue to post job ads stating that “unemployed” persons need not apply for any opening. These employers will only consider applicants who are currently employed. Since the time this article was originally published, some state and local governments have taken action to bar discrimination against unemployed persons in hiring practices. Notably, as of now, the District of Columbia, New Jersey, and Oregon have such legislation in place and California, Connecticut, Missouri, Maryland, New York State and New York City are considering similar legislation. The original article is as follows:
Amazingly, in an economic climate that rivals the Great Depression, some employers have made clear that “unemployed” persons need not bother to apply for job openings.
In these times, when our employment levels have suffered a serious down-shift, people who find themselves on the rosters of the unemployed now must navigate the narrow gauntlet of stiff competition for fewer jobs. And, it is counterproductive to our economic recovery for employers to exclude the “unemployed” from consideration for available job openings.
For certain executive level positions, some employers will court high-performers of competitors with the goal of gaining some advantage over these competitors. Often, however, exclusion of unemployed persons from consideration reflects prejudices that unemployed persons have work performance problems, or their skills and contacts must be outdated.
To be sure, some unemployed people are not interested in working. Those intangible qualities such as “work ethic”, nuts and bolts knowledge and experience, up-to-date skills and contacts, and compatibility with others in an organization can be difficult, if not impossible, to ascertain from an interview, resume, and select references.
On the other hand, it cannot be presumed that unemployed persons lack these intangibles by mere virtue of the fact that they presently do not have jobs. In fact, each of us who has worked in any type of job for any type of employer can readily point to one or more co-workers, managers, or supervisors who we would describe as lazy, incompetent, limited, abrasive, or overpaid. And, these people are employed!
Moreover, it is a mistake to assume that an unemployed person has lost his or her skills or contacts. To the contrary, time spent without a job can often be the most productive in terms of skill and knowledge development. Additionally, persons who are unemployed often spend time pursuing additional “contacts”, engage in various training and certification programs to improve skills, and pursue other avenues to stay “current” in the field.
Job loss, for whatever reason it occurred, is devastating financially as well as emotionally, mentally, and physically. If you are an employer with job openings, or if you work for a One Stop Career Center or Job Corps Center focused on getting people to work, consider carefully the day-to-day duties required of an available job and then look closely at any person, employed or unemployed, who demonstrates an ability to perform these duties.
One Stop Career Centers and Job Corps Centers should make sure that unemployed persons are being afforded an opportunity to participate in every educational, training, and/or on-the-job training opportunity for which they meet the essential eligibility requirements. Moreover, participants should be encouraged to include these training and educational pursuits on their resumes so that potential employers may see ongoing skill-building in the field.
Seena Foster, award winning author and Partner of the discrimination consulting firm, Title VI Consulting, LLP in Alexandria, Virginia, provides expertise and guidance in the areas of compliance and civil rights investigations to state and local governments, colleges and universities, private companies, and non-profit organizations. To that end, she offers one hour Webinars, full-day and half-day in-person training sessions, and mediation services addressing a variety of types of discrimination such as racial discrimination, sex discrimination, disability discrimination, age discrimination, and religious discrimination. The federal law on discrimination is complex and affects our workplaces as well as the delivery of our federally funded programs and activities. Her book, Civil Rights Investigations Under the Workforce Investment Act and Other Title VI Related Laws: From Intake to Final Determination, has been described as an “eye-opening” reading experience and a “stand-alone” training resource. Ms. Foster’s resources and materials are designed to support the work of civil rights and discrimination professionals in the public and private sectors. You may contact her through www.titleviconsulting.com.