The New York Times
July 25, 2011
It is hard to recall a time when it was tougher to find a job. Fully two years after the official end of the recession, unemployment is at 9.2 percent. Job creation has stalled. Making things even more difficult, many employers, staffing agencies and online job-posting firms are expressly screening out applicants who are unemployed, apparently as an expedient to cull résumés, or on the presumption that the unemployed are poor performers.
The last thing America's job-seekers need are policies that require them to have a job in order to get a job. Rejecting the unemployed is also bad economics because it casts aside qualified workers who could perhaps perform jobs sooner or better than already employed candidates.
A bill introduced this month in the House would fix the problem, but with Congress bent on slashing the budget even as joblessness worsens, it faces an uphill battle.
The Fair Employment Opportunity Act of 2011, sponsored by Democrats Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut and Henry Johnson Jr. of Georgia, would prohibit employers and employment firms from rejecting applicants solely because they are unemployed. It would also make it illegal to state in job advertisements that jobless workers will not be considered.
The bill is as important for what it doesn't do as for what it does. It does nothing to dictate an employer's ultimate decision. Instead, it focuses more narrowly on recruiting and hiring, by ensuring that jobless workers are not arbitrarily kept out of the pool of candidates.
The result is a balance between the needs of workers to pursue jobs and of employers to make hiring choices based on relevant criteria like experience and education.
The bill has 30 Democratic co-sponsors in the House and no Republican supporters -- so far. It also does not yet have, and clearly needs, a champion in the Senate. With joblessness being the economy's No. 1 problem, is it really asking too much for lawmakers to move on a targeted piece of legislation that could do some good while doing no harm?