Obama’s Job Bill Would Protect Unemployed Americans From Discrimination

Provision says job seekers would have the right to sue if they are denied a job based on their unemployment status.

Posted: 10/10/2011 02:07 PM EDT

As the national unemployment rate holds steady at 9.1 percent, with Black unemployment dipping slightly last month, there have been increasing concerns that employers aren’t looking to hire those who have been out of work for some time. A provision in President Barack Obama’s job bill would penalize companies and employment agencies that do so.

 

Job seeker Selena Forte, 55, of Cleveland, has experienced the discrimination first hand. Forte, a substitute school bus driver, says a recruiter for an employment agency told her she would not be considered for the job because she had been out of work too long. "They didn't even want to hear about my experience," Forte told Associated Press. "It didn't make sense. You're always told just go out there and get a job."

 

Specifically, the measure bands companies with 15 or more employees from refusing to consider — or offer a job to — someone who is unemployed. It extends to employment agencies and would prohibit want ads that disqualify applicants just because they are out of work. A recent survey by the National Employment Law Project found more than 150 job postings on employment websites such as careerbuilder.com and monster.com requiring that applicants "must be currently employed" or using other exclusionary language based on current employment status. Should Obama’s job bill be passed, the provision would allow people like Forte the right to sue, and violators would face fines of up to $1,000 per day, plus attorney fees and costs.

 

Obama’s bill has met much resistance from Republicans, who oppose its plans for tax increases on the wealthy and other spending provisions.

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