Friday, October 14, 2011

Will Protection Help.......Or Not?


It was about two years ago when I began learning from  emailers and clients and job seekers in general that unemployed job seekers were being discriminated against.  It’s great to see an issue getting national exposure that we in the career niche have known about for awhile.

Obama’s proposed bill prevents companies with 15 people or more from not hiring someone who is unemployed.  Cheers, right?  Advocates of job seekers have applauded the proposed measure.  But others say it fosters discrimination in favor of the unemployed and may well result in unnecessary litigation. 

According to Wikipedia:  “Unemployment (or joblessness), as defined by the International Labour Organization, occurs when people are without jobs and they have actively looked for work within the past four weeks.”  Not hiring the unemployed goes back further than you might expect.

Wikipedia also says that in the 1576 Act each town was required to provide work for the unemployed. The Elizabethan Poor Law of 1601, one of the world’s first government-sponsored welfare programs, made a clear distinction between those who were unable to work and those able-bodied people who refused employment.

I googled various phrases to see what’s happened in the past, but didn’t find much.  In 2006, Gary Aguirre was hired by the SEC, but sued them for not hiring him when he earlier applied for the job.  In 2010, a job applicant asked on a Colorado website if he could sue a company for not hiring him when they required a degree, hired someone who didn’t have one, and he didn’t have one either.  In 2004 a male wanted to sue Hooters for not hiring him as a waiter.

In a 2007 blogpost, one executive advises HR people on how to “delicately” handle the subject of why someone wasn’t hired by issuing any number of vague phrases – none of which are new to so many of todays job seekers.   I can’t count the number of times job seekers have asked me what to do when they have the qualifications, are ignored, and see the job ad remain or even be reposted on a job board.

Personally, I can argue both sides of this.  In deference to the job seekers, I’ve written several articles about the stupidity of companies not hiring the unemployed. 

In deference to employers, I know from having been a recruiter and now from working with my clients there are an awful lot of job seekers who think they are qualified….and aren’t. 

Companies who don’t hire the unemployed are discounting a valuable resource.  After all, it’s not as if it’s a candidates’ market and thus those who are unemployed are, generally, not the cream of the crop.  These days, there are a lot of very good people who were  let go individually or as a group for reasons having nothing to do with their performance. 

On the flip side, there are going to be job seekers who have a history of not accepting responsibility for their actions and aren’t going to change that if this law goes into effect.  In a world where people sue for spilling hot coffee on their lap, for getting cancer from cigarettes and equally absurd reasons that spend taxpayer dollars and tie up the courts, this attempt at fairness will most definitely have its boundaries tested.

It may well be that a few cases have to be litigated in order to set some sort of a precedent, with or without EEOC guidelines.  This issue isn’t really anything new – it just has a different shape to it. So, whether it’s enacted or not is a moot point, really.  Only in an ideal world will companies consider candidates based solely on their capabilities and credentials, and will job seekers take responsibility for their decisions and actions and not look for the easy way out.

I’m just wondering………so you sue a company for not being hired and then… get lots of money for not being hired which underlines your lack of interest in conducting  a  productive job search in the first place (and shows what type of person you really are) or you get to work there after all.  You lose either way , no?  

Or you can look at it this way – if they don’t want to hire you because you’re unemployed, it’s not likely to be a place you want to work anyway.  Then you’re at a meet up group and run into the hiring manager who put you in the “no” stack because you were unemployed, you can quietly hope he’s learned something from his earlier decision.

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