Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Discrimination or Prudent Hiring Practice?

Many employers will not consider applicants who have been unemployed for long periods of time. This has always been the case of course, but in the boom years with unemployment rates at rock bottom, there was good reason to be wary of anybody who hadn't managed to keep or get a job for years on end.

Now that unemployment rates have been hovering just under 10% for the third year in a row, though, more and more "normal" people are finding themselves out of work for months, even years. Still, employers seek to fill positions with those who already have jobs most of the time - or at least with those who haven't been unemployed for long.

Millions of disgruntled unemployed would-be workers are now crying "discrimination," and more than a few states have now introduced legislation to try to curb the most blatant displays of this hiring bias. Specifically, the new laws are designed to prohibit employers from openly discriminating against the unemployed in help-wanted ads or in direct hiring or in screenings by employment agencies.

Unemployed people aren't a federally protected group like homosexuals or those with disabilities; therefore the laws can't prevent employers from refusing to hire somebody who has been unemployed for X number of months. However lawmakers don't want employers openly advertising the fact that they won't consider those applicants, for some reason. That seems kind of pointless to me since those companies are likely to continue not to hire employees for whatever reason they want.

Do you think it's a bad thing that some companies are refusing to consider applicants with more than 6 or 12 months of an employment gap? Recruiters are arguing that they are plagued with thousands of applications for every opening and have to narrow the field somehow. Isn't that just as good of a metric to use as anything on a resume? Or do you think it's wrong in this economy to evaluate people based on their work history (or lack thereof)?

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