Employers to Long-Term Jobless: 'You Need Not Apply'

Long-Term Jobless As if being unemployed itself wasn't challenging enough, companies routinely exclude long-term jobless applicants from being considered for job openings, a new report finds.

Despite increased scrutiny and strong public opposition to the practice, employers and staffing firms continue to deny job opportunities to those workers hardest hit by the economic downturn, according to the report, released by the National Employment Law Project, a worker advocacy organization.

"This disturbing and unfair practice appears to be more pervasive than previously thought," Christine Owens, NELP executive director, said in a statement accompanying release of the report.

An informal NELP survey conducted March 9 to April 5 on popular job-posting websites, including Monster.com, Craigslist, CareerBuilder.com and Indeed.com, found numerous employment ads that said job seekers "must be currently employed."

Roadblock to Recovery

"This pernicious practice adds a tremendous burden for unemployed workers as they look for jobs," Owens says, adding that there is little sense for such discrimination.

"It is debilitating to workers -- particularly the long-term unemployed -- and it hampers economic recovery," she says.

The report follows last week's release of June employment data from the U.S. Department of Labor showing continued weakness in the labor market. Employers created a meager 18,000 jobs overall, and the nation's unemployment rate rose to 9.2 percent -- or about 14.1 million people.

Of those, NELP says, about 6.3 million, or 44 percent, have been without work for six months or longer.

They include Michelle Chesney-Offutt, a 53-year-old Illinois resident, who told NELP that she was denied further consideration for a position, despite a 19-year-work history, because she had been unemployed for more than six months.

Chesney-Offutt said that she was "absolutely stunned" when told by a recruiter that the vetting process wouldn't proceed further because of an " 'over-6-month-unemployed' policy that his client adhered to."

A recent poll showed that 80 percent of adults described such practices as "very unfair," with another 10 percent saying that it's simply "unfair." Further, those responding to the poll supported by 2-to-1 a ban on companies who refuse to hire or consider qualified job applicants solely because they're currently unemployed.

The companies range from staffing companies to auto dealerships and colleges to restaurants, and in their ads state that applicants must be "currently employed" or use similar language. Here's a sampling:

The release of the NELP report coincides with the introduction Tuesday of new legislation in the House of Representatives by two Democratic members, Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut and Henry Johnson Jr. of Georgia, to prevent employers from discriminating against the jobless.

Known as the Fair Employment Opportunity Act, the bill would prohibit employers and employment agencies from screening out or excluding job applicants solely because they are unemployed.

"It is unjust for employers to discriminate against those who are unemployed," DeLauro said in statement. "We have seen ample evidence that unemployed individuals are increasingly falling prey to discriminatory practices reducing their opportunities to be considered for a job."

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