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Debate over hiring bias against the unemployed in Maryland

In the face of numerous reports across Maryland about jobless residents being discriminated against during the hiring process, legislators are considering a bill that would stop employers from discriminating against the unemployed. More than 12 states are working to address this issue, according to a Baltimore Sun report.

It is not clear how often the unemployed are passed over for jobs because hiring managers want to hire someone who is already employed. Unemployment is not a protected classification, like race, religion and age, so such statistics are not tracked by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. But, it does happen. According to the worker advocacy group National Employment Law Project, a study has revealed that more than 150 online job postings have stated that a candidate must be working or only newly unemployed.

New Jersey has already forbid employers from discriminating against jobless Americans in this fashion, and a similar bill is currently before the governor in Oregon. Washington's city council also recently passed legislation to ban employers from failing to consider applicants on the basis of whether or not they are employed.

The bill in Maryland would add "employment status" as one of the protected classes that employers cannot use to discriminate against employees or applicants.

Those who oppose this type of legislation have argued that it is not employment status that hiring managers are concerned with, but rather whether a job candidate has up-to-date skills. And job recruiters have admitted that they are somewhat suspicious of candidates who have been unemployed for a long time.

Advocates counter that employers can interview unemployed candidates to determine their skills and to question them about gaps in employment rather than dismissing their applications. They argue that given the state of the economy, many people in certain industries have been out of work for a long time and that sometimes these very people are the best employment candidates.

Source: Baltimore Sun, "Md. legislation targets employer bias against unemployed," Eileen Ambrose, March 18, 2012

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