New York City will soon have the nation's broadest laws barring employers from rejecting out of work applicants. When the law takes effect in June, New York City will be the fourth location in the country with some type of legislation against discrimination against unemployed job-seekers.
The law prohibits employers from basing hiring, compensation, or employment terms and privileges on an individual's current unemployment status, absent a "substantially job-related reason" for doing so. The law does not prevent employers from looking into the background surrounding an applicant's separation from his/her prior employment. It also does not prevent employers from considering "substantially job-related qualifications," including professional or occupational licenses or certifications or minimum levels of education, training, or experience.
New York City's law will allow applicants to sue employers for damages (compensatory and punitive) over claims that they were rejected because of their unemployed status. A prevailing party would also be entitled to recover attorney's fees.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn was quoted as saying "We cannot and will not allow New Yorkers who are qualified and ready to work and looking to work to have the door of opportunity slammed in their faces."
Unemployment discrimination laws have been floated around the nation in recent years. President Barack Obama proposed one in 2011 and New Jersey, Oregon and Washington D.C. have passed laws prohibiting employers from listing "current employment" as a requirement in a job advertisement.
Since enacting the first such measure in 2011, New Jersey has cited at least one company for an advertisement that prohibited jobless applicants from applying.
Jobless applicants believe it is unfair to be required to have a job to get a job, particularly after so many years of exorbitant unemployment and layoffs. According to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 1 in 3 unemployed workers has been looking for a job for at least 6 months.