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Organization represents people fighting for rights to Connecticut jobs

Posted on September 25, 2011

The National Employment Law Project has joined Representatives Rosa DeLauro (CT-3) and Hank Johnson (GA-4) and Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) to help the unemployment fight for their rights to obtain Connecticut jobs and jobs all over the nation.

The coalition gathered 250,000 petition signatures calling for an end to hiring policies that discriminate against the unemployed, and to call for passage of the Fair Employment Opportunity Act. The bill, also included in President Obama’s American Jobs Act, would prohibit exclusion of the unemployed from job openings. The petition signatures were gathered by USAction, Change.org, ColorofChange.org and CREDO Action and represent Americans from across the country.

The law could potentially affect Chicago jobs, Rhode Island jobs, and many other states and cities around the nation.

“Fourteen million Americans are unemployed and looking for work, and this bill will make sure they have a fair chance to find jobs and contribute to the economic recovery,” said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project. “Denying unemployed people job opportunities is no way to rebuild an economy – it’s like turning the job market into a giant game of musical chairs in which only those who are already employed can play. We applaud these members of Congress, President Obama and all who are fighting to end discriminatory hiring practices that hinder the economy and harm millions of job-seeking Americans,” said Owens.

As NELP testified before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and reported in a recent survey, employers and staffing agencies that refuse to consider the unemployed for job openings have become a disturbing hurdle for jobless Americans looking for work. Ads on the nation’s most heavily-trafficked job posting websites like CareerBuilder.com and Monster.com regularly include messages like “must be currently employed.” Recent ad examples, found on CareerBuilder.com and other sites, can be accessed here.

As Senator Blumenthal recounted Wednesday from a letter he received, Connecticut resident Kim Keough was laid off in July 2008 after 20 years of work as a human resources professional, with a specialization in benefits. When she recently tried to apply for a local HR position, one for which she was eminently qualified, the recruiter told her that “This particular client is very picky about resumes. They won’t consider anyone who isn’t currently working.” Keough explained to the recruiter that she had in fact taken a part-time minimum wage job but did not list it on her resume because the job is not in her field. When she asked if she would then be considered, the recruiter nevertheless replied: “No, they are just tough.”

“Companies need to realize that when they exclude unemployed people, they are missing out on great, talented potential employees who would be dedicated – and they are getting a bad reputation as well,” said Keough.

A June poll conducted by Hart Research Associates found that 90 percent of respondents agreed that excluding unemployed candidates from job opportunities is an unfair hiring policy.

President Obama himself recently said that “We have seen instances in which employers are explicitly saying we don’t want to take a look at folks who’ve been unemployed. Well, that makes absolutely no sense, and I know there’s legislation that I’m supportive of that says you cannot discriminate against folks because they’ve been unemployed, particularly when you’ve seen so many folks who, through no fault of their own, ended up being laid off because of the difficulty of this recession.”

In a sign that some organizations are changing or clarifying their policies, earlier this month Indeed.com, one of the largest job listing websites in the U.S., announced that it would stop posting job ads that refuse applications from unemployed candidates. Sophie Beaurpere, Indeed.com Director of Communications, said in a statement that the site has “implemented measures to block ads identified as discriminating against the unemployed.” (The full statement from Indeed.com can be found here). NELP has urged CareerBuilder.com, Monster.com, Craiglist.org and other recruiters and employers to issue similar public statements vowing to eliminate employment status from their hiring requirements.

For more than 30 months, there have been more than four unemployed workers for every job opening, and the average duration of joblessness now stands at 40.3 weeks. More than 6 million of the unemployed have been out of work for more than 6 months, over 4.4 million of them have been unemployed for over a year, and just over two million have been unemployed for 99 weeks or more.

“High unemployment and stagnant job growth are hurdles enough for Americans trying to get back to work. Congress should pass the Fair Employment Opportunity Act and the entire American Jobs Act, which includes a year-long reauthorization of unemployment insurance. These are essential measures for rebuilding the economy,” said Owens.

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