Are Recruiters Discriminating Against Jobless?

February 25, 2011  |  

(The Root) — Jacqueline Berrien, chair of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, says that the calls and e-mails started trickling in last summer. Members of Congress passed along complaints they’d received from frustrated constituents. Advocacy groups sent examples of peculiar help-wanted ads and news reports. All had the same concern.

Across the country, it seemed, employers and recruitment firms were outright rejecting people seeking jobs … because they needed jobs. Whether through advertisements immediately disqualifying the jobless with phrases such as “Must be currently employed,” or through recruiters rebuffing workers upon learning their unemployed status, the practice raised questions for the EEOC, which enforces laws against workplace discrimination based on race, national origin, sex, color, religion, age and disability.  The unemployed, however, are not in a federally protected class.

“The basic question about this was, is there any problem from a legal standpoint?” Berrien told The Root in an interview. “The long-standing interpretation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is that a practice that is neutral on its face might violate the law if it has a harmful disparate impact on legally protected groups.”

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