Job ads that list "current employment" as a requirement are becoming less common, thanks to a chorus of outrage, and laws declaring it illegal discrimination in several states. But some employers seem to be adopting a new approach -- requiring applicants to have "a stable work history" -- which may, in essence, serve the same purpose: To weed out the unemployed.
The Porter Group, a sales management recruiting firm with $3.4 million in revenue (as of 2008) and offices in New Jersey and Maryland, has over three dozen ads on its job listing board that mention "stability" as a requirement, from "stable experience" and "very stable work history," to "must be stable" and "STABLE." One of the ads says bluntly that only "currently employed" workers should apply, but the other ads stress stability. For example:
Well funded, research driven Pharmaceutical Company seeks a sales representative with 2+ years of documented, STABLE success in Business-to-Business sales for a Baltimore and Annapolis territory. Sell established products! Opportunity is open due to recent promotions. Qualified candidates MUST have a 4-year degree and stable work history.
Stable employees are better workers?: In an interview with AOL Jobs, James Porter, the CEO of the Porter Group, said that his clients -- employers that he wouldn't identify -- wanted him to include this language. He defended "stable work history" as a way to screen out job-hoppers. Employers "want to see people who are going to be part of the company, and grow with the company," says Porter. "They're going to spend a lot of time training them."
He acknowledged that it might also work to weed out applicants who have had a bout of unemployment. If a sales person has been laid off, he explains, there's a good chance that they weren't on top of their game. "What company in their right mind is going to lay off the top seller? ... They're going to let their weaker performers go first."
It's all over the place: This isn't just a requirement in the technical-sales field. Nor is it just directed at execs -- or entry-level workers. A search through ads shows that giant companies across industries are using similar language when hiring for all sorts of positions:
An ad for ashift supervisor position in Warrenton, Miss., at Papa John's, the $1.5 billion pizza delivery chain asks applicants to have an employment history that is "stable and successful."
Baker Hughes, a leading oil services company, is looking for a electrical assembler in Claremore, OK, with one or two years of experience, and "a stable work history."
A stable work history is even listed as a qualification for an entry-level call-center job in Tempe, Ariz., at the country's largest bank, JPMorgan Chase.
JPMorgan, Papa John's, and Baker Hughes did not respond to requests for comment.
"It's tough because employers have a good reason to want" someone who isn't a job hopper, says workplace consultant and AOL Jobs contributor J.T. O'Donnell. "Training costs so much money, and you want someone to stay put. An employer's greatest fear is to lose talent."
But, she adds, requiring a stable work history can "discriminate against candidates who could be great, but had some bad luck." Maurice Emsellem, policy co-director of the National Employment Law Project, an advocacy group for low-wage workers, agrees. "There are a lot of bumps in the road that have nothing to do with their qualifications for the job," Emsellem says. "That's where this kind of language can create a real problem."
Another way to say "unemployed need not apply"?: Many studies have shown that the long-term unemployed are widely discriminated against in hiring. In response to the problem, the states of New Jersey and Oregon and the District of Columbia have banned discrimination against the unemployed in job ads. But this protection doesn't extend to the subject of work history.
Last month, a much further-reaching New York law went into effect, banning employers from having any job requirement that could disparately impact the unemployed, unless the employer can demonstrate that the requirement is substantially job-related. A "very stable work history" could very possibly fall into that category, according to Emsellem.
For while certain skills and years of experience in a particular field are relevant requirements for a position, it's not as obvious how "stable work history" is a bonafide qualification.
"There may be some job where it's absolutely critical that they have a stable work history, whatever that means," says Emsellem. "But what jobs are those exactly? What are we talking about?"
The Most Underpaid Jobs in the U.S.
Don't Have A 'Stable Work History'? These Employers Don't Want You
Average Salary: $23,900 No. of Openings: 195,000 Job Satisfaction: HIGH
Those who work in security frequently praise the occupation's flexible hours (lots of night and 12-hour shifts result in more days off) and recommend it for people who don't mind working alone. Still, it's a job that can be particularly stressful to the psyche as well as the body. Security guards must remain alert to protect against and prevent fire hazards, larceny, vandalism, and other emergency situations and illegal activity. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that security guards experience more on-the-job injury than the national average for all professions; gaming surveillance officers specifically have one of the highest injury rates. Too bad the pay is so paltry for those making security their full-time gig. In 2011, the average median salary for a security guard was just $23,900.
Average Salary: $28,470 No. of Openings: 71,400 Job Satisfaction: HIGH
A sports coach trains either amateur or professional athletes for competition. But he or she also serves as an adviser, parent, teacher, and confidante for his or her team. The most-renowned in the profession -- the Bela Karolyis, the John Maddens, and the Pat Rileys -- have earned impressive salaries that came with adulation as well as endorsement deals. But most of the 242,900 professionals working in the field currently aren't coaching on that level, nor are they earning that type of pay. And the adulation they most mention to Glassdoor comes from the impressionable young people they coach on the secondary and collegiate level.
Average Salary: $29,100 No. of Openings: 162,900 Job Satisfaction: MEDIUM
The approximately 530,000 medical assistants employed in doctors' offices and larger medical organizations must do a mix of traditional office operations work and hands-on medical tasks. They take patient histories, assist in patient examinations, change wound dressings, and help with sterilizing equipment. Often, they're the first and last people a patient sees when visiting a doctor's office, so medical assistants play a substantial part in the overall patient-care experience. In recent years, a medical assistant's people skills and practical skills have been complemented by technological skills, since most patient records are now digitized. The multifaceted nature of responsibilities hasn't resulted in substantially higher pay, however. In 2011, the BLS reported a median salary for medical assistants that's $12,573 less than the national average.
Average Salary: $31,030 No. of Openings: 124,700 Job Satisfaction: HIGH
"There is a lot of satisfaction in helping people," writes one assistant department head to Glassdoor about working at Minnesota's Life Time Fitness club. Another recreation and fitness professional with Urban Active Fitness in Lexington, Ken., appreciates "The people you'll meet and relationships you'll start." So it's no surprise that as a whole, recreation and fitness occupations—aerobics instructors, camp counselors, and personal trainers—receive a boost on our Best Jobs list for their reported personal perks. The chance to be physically active and forgo a traditional 9-to-5 schedule also help boost these occupations' curb appeal. But fitness trainers earned an average $31,030 in 2011, according to the BLS. That's more than $10,000 less than the national average median wage.
Average Salary: $31,870 No. of Openings: 118,500 Job Satisfaction: HIGH
Today's administrative assistants have evolved beyond juggling phone messages and transcribing meeting minutes. They must now be thoroughly organized, have excellent writing and editing skills, and display a knack for multitasking. Often, admin professionals fulfill the roles of project managers, secret keepers, daily planners, customer service reps, and tech support. And despite wearing so many hats around the office, the more than 2 million employed administrative assistants were earning a salary that's well below the national average -- $30,830 in 2010. In 2011, they earned about $31,870. Corporate culture and outstanding office benefits -- but not compensation -- were the key contributors to this occupation securing such lofty scores for job satisfaction.
Average Salary: $39,070 No. of Openings: 45,000 Job Satisfaction: HIGH
The mercurial economy hasn't made a real estate agent's profession an easy one. Still, the BLS predicts approximately 45,000 openings in this occupation between now and 2020, thanks to population growth. Agents have to stay abreast to the local zoning and tax laws of various communities, plus keep a pulse on the atmosphere in communities where they might do business. Keeping tabs on market conditions is another crucial element of their occupation. This is also a job that requires copious paperwork and patience, but it's not a job that comes with copious spending change. Though the profession's highest-paid earned around $92,000 in 2011, a real estate agent's average salary was less than $40,000 that year. Some tell Glassdoor that they find reward in helping people find homes. For others, they appreciate the chance to make their own flexible schedule.
Average Salary: $40,680 No. of Openings: 58,200 Job Satisfaction: HIGH
The stakes are higher when a social worker has a bad day. The average, coddled office employee might become discouraged when the copier jams or the instant coffee machine goes on the fritz. But for a children, family and school social worker, a "bad day" could entail reporting suspected child abuse, having a proposed adoption fall through, or witnessing a parent losing custody of their children. Despite the high stress, social workers report to Glassdoor that they like working with people, and get a thrill out of positively impacting the lives of others. Their tender hearts don't translate to loads of legal tender, though. The BLS reports that a social worker's median salary was $40,680 in 2011, just shy of the national average wage.