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Proposed federal law would prohibit discrimination against jobless

Two members of Congress have proposed a bill that would prohibit employers from discriminating against unemployed job applicants. The proposed federal law has come about after widespread reports in the media of job ad postings that list “must be currently employed” among the requirements for potential job candidates.

The “Fair Employment Opportunity Act of 2011” would prohibit employers from listing this kind of requirement or screening out applicants solely because they are currently unemployed. This law would be along the lines of other federal laws that prohibit employers from listing other banned requirements of job candidates, such as that they be a certain sex, a certain ethnicity or race or a certain age.

A recent study that was reported on in the Sun Sentinel found that many online job ads on major employment sites were listing the requirement that candidates be currently employed. Most of the companies also listed their company names along with the requirement. If the new federal law passes, this would make these companies vulnerable to discrimination lawsuits.

The recent study looked at four major Internet job sites:,, and The researchers found more than 150 ads that listed that applicants be currently employed. Some employers said that they wrote that not to discriminate against unemployed job applicants but to find people with the most up-to-date skills and recent experience.

If a federal law passes to prohibit this type of requirement, employers would need to make sure to word their ads in ways that find the people with the best and most current skills without also excluding all currently unemployed candidates.

Source: Sun Sentinel, “Discrimination against unemployed continues in online ad postings, study says,” Marcia Heroux Pounds, 12 July 2011

John P. Aldrich
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