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For Long-Unemployed, Hiring Bias Rears Its Head

Associated Press (03/23/12)

With close to 13 million Americans unemployed last month, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, there are concerns that employers may be discriminating against those who have been out of work for long periods of time. The National Conference of State Legislatures reports legislation that would prohibit discrimination against the unemployed in job ads, direct hiring, or screenings by staffing firms is being considered by lawmakers in several states.

In Connecticut, proposed legislation would prohibit discrimination in job ads, but lawmakers might not go as far as allowing unemployed job seekers to file complaints with the state’s human rights commission or to sue for alleged discrimination. The Connecticut Business and Industry Association says firms oppose measures that would allow workers to sue for discrimination but consider a ban on discriminatory job ads to be reasonable. However, the National Employment Law Project is pushing states to go beyond prohibiting discriminatory ads to stop employers, including staffing firms, from excluding unemployed job seekers from consideration for employment.

Terri Michaels, manager of Stewart Staffing Solutions in Hartford, CT, criticizes hiring practices that screen out unemployed job seekers. She says that despite the policies of small staffing companies such as hers, some large employers have an unspoken policy against hiring applicants who have been out of work for two years or more because they want workers with a stable job history and recent references. “They won’t be able to say it but they’ll act on it,” says Michaels.