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Unemployment Discrimination In New York a Hot Topic in Bad Economy

According to the New York State Department of Labor, New York’s unemployment rate went unchanged from August to September, staying at 8 percent.

New York City’s unemployment is slightly higher at 8.7 percent, but lower than the 9.1 national rate. While it’s better to be in a position stronger than the rest of the nation, New York isn’t exactly rolling out extra jobs these days.That’s why it’s more important than ever that issues such as unemployment discrimination in New York become things of the past. There have been struggles for years about discrimination in the workplace that have left workers bitter and corporations hammered with lawsuits.

Whether it be hiring and firing based on gender, race, disability or sexual orientation, these issues have been handled by courts nationwide that have ended in them being added to protected classes that can get businesses in big trouble if they violate the law.

Unemployment may soon be added to that class. In June, a law went into effect in New Jersey that banned employers from putting out advertisements for jobs that required applicants to already be employed in order to apply for the new job. The unemployed, people who really needed a job, were left out in the cold.

A New York City bureau president, the New York Daily News reports, has pushed city council members as well as state legislators to introduce bills to ban discrimination in hiring based on unemployment. He said he’s found nearly two dozen examples of advertisements recently where employers sought only job seekers who already had a job.

President Barack Obama has taken the issue a step further. According to Bloomberg, the President’s new jobs bill would allow companies to be sued for discrimination if they exclude unemployed applicants from trying to get a job.

But Home Depot co-founder Kenneth Langone said the bill could actually be more damaging to job seekers than the good it could do. He believes businesses would simply avoid unemployed applicants for fear they could come under fire for a lawsuit.

Rather than interviewing applicants who are unemployed and opening themselves up to a potential lawsuit under the proposed bill, they would simply elect not to call them back. For that reason, it’s possible the bill would actually make it tougher for the unemployed to get job interviews in the first place.

Unemployment discrimination is certainly a problem, but the best way to address it may not be promoting lawsuits against businesses. As usual, Democrats who support the president’s bill and Republicans, like Langone, have come out against it. Supporters say the bill goes a long way in ensuring all Americans have equal access to jobs and slam Langone, saying his comments are overblown.

It’s certainly true that all New Yorkers should have an equal shot at a job, and their current job status should have nothing to do with whether they get an interview. But it’s also true that companies can be selective, and sometimes discriminatory, in hiring and promotions. Whether through legislation or eye-opening jury verdicts, businesses must learn their lesson that they can’t discriminate.

The Law Offices of Ira S. Newman provides employment discrimination legal counsel in New York City, Long Island, Great Neck and throughout the area. Call 516-487-7375 or contact us through the website.

More Blog Entries:

Unemployment Discrimination Prevalent, Newspaper Reports: August 9, 2011
Additional Resources:

City pol fights to end bias against unemployed as more employers screen out jobless candidates, by Erin Einhorn, New York Daily News
Obama’s Bill Would Hinder Work Search by Jobless, Langone Says, by Stephanie Armour, Bloomberg