This takes the “rich get richer, the poor get poorer” to a new level. The New York Times reports that its review of job vacancy postings on popular sites such as Monster.com, CareerBuilder and Craigslist uncovered that employers are now posting ads saying they will consider, or “strongly prefer,” applicants who are currently employed or recently laid off.
Is it legal to discriminate against the unemployed in New York? For now, yes: the unemployed are not a protected class (generally, race, age, religion, national origin, sex, and color are protected classes). However, discrimination against the unemployed is unfair: it creates a vicious cycle where one needs a job to get a job.
The unemployed may soon receive some help. The New York legislature is considering a bill that would make it illegal for employers to discriminate against the unemployed in advertising, hiring, and setting the terms of employment. The bill defines “unemployment status” as being unemployed, having actively looked for employment during the most recent four week period, and currently being available for employment.
New York is not alone in its quest to ban discrimination against the unemployed. Michigan is considering a similar law, and even Congress is looking into the matter. In March, 2011, New Jersey actually passed a law that prohibits employers from publishing job advertisements which state that unemployed individuals cannot apply for the position. Violations are punishable by a $1,000 fine for the first offense, and $5,000 for subsequent offenses. Notably, the prohibition extends only to wording in advertisements, and does not ban actual discrimination against the unemployed.
Should New York ban discrimination against the unemployed? For a great debate on the subject, click here.