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The Newest Protected Class: The Unemployed?

President Obama’s proposed American Jobs Act has a provision that would make it unlawful for employers to (amongst other things) refuse to hire an individual “based on that individual’s status as unemployed.”  In the words of Seth and Amy of SNL fame:  Really, Mr. President?  Really?

Specifically, the proposed law has three major prohibitions regarding the unemployed.  First, employers cannot publish an advertisement stating that unemployed individuals would not qualify or would not be considered for a job opening.  Second, employers cannot fail or refuse to hire for employment, or fail or refuse to hire, an individual because of the individual’s status as unemployed.  Third, employers cannot direct or request that an employment agency take an individual’s status as unemployed into account to disqualify an applicant for a job position.

Based on this language, it appears the focus of the proposed law is to prevent discrimination because of an individual’s status as unemployed.

That being said, however, the law does allow employers to consider the reason an individual is unemployed.  Specifically, the proposed law would not preclude an employer or employment agency from considering an individual’s employment history or the reasons underlying an individual’s status as unemployed, in assessing an individual’s ability to perform a job or in otherwise making employment decisions about that individual.

Like most Americans, I too am in favor of lowering the unemployment rate and creating jobs for as many people as possible.  Yet, I cannot support this law because it would just create too many opportunities for unemployed individuals to file frivolous lawsuits against any employer that does not give them a job.  So, let’s just hope this proposed law doesn’t get enacted by Congress.

You can read a copy of the proposed law here.