There is a bill presented in New York City that would allow job applicants, who are rejected on the basis of unemployment, to file a complaint with the city or file in court. Washington D.C. has a similar law in that it prohibits both discrimination in hiring and consideration and also prohibits job postings that require job applicants to be employed. New York City's law would be the only city that would allow someone to bring a lawsuit if they were discriminated against due to their unemployment status, says Naomi Sunshine, employment lawyer and associate with Outten and Golden in New York.
A study done by the National Employment Law Project looked at the pervasiveness of job postings that said "unemployed need not apply" or "you must be currently employed to be considered," and since that time, especially with similar laws passed in New Jersey and Oregon, there are far fewer job postings like this, says Sunshine.
Sunshine thinks that this law in New York City will hopefully send a message to recruiters and employers that they should not discard a resume or look no further when a person is unemployed because that person could be the most qualified.
Sunshine points out that this law still allows employers to inquire as to the reasons why someone last left a job and to consider those reasons if it's significantly job-related. What this law does, says Sunshine, is it requires and encourages employers to pick the most qualified applicant regardless of employment status.
As New York City is an "HR capital and a business headquarters," Sunshine thinks this bill will have an impact on other states as well. "The unemployment rate is 10% in New York City, which is higher than the state and national average, so it's a real issue here," says Sunshine.
If someone believes they are a victim of unemployment discrimination, Sunshine advises that they write down everything that was said or communicated and if in New York City, they may soon have a right to file a lawsuit. If unemployed, Sunshine recommends staying on top of their field and to be prepared to explain gaps in employment.
Naomi Sunshine is an associate with Outten and Golden, an employment law firm in New York. For more information on Naomi, visit http://www.outtengolden.com/lawyer-attorney/naomi-b-sunshine. Naomi spoke with the Employment Law Channel, part of the Legal Broadcast Network.