WASHINGTON -- The jobs package President Obama sent to Congress on Monday includes a ban on hiring discrimination against the jobless.
Since last year companies and staffing firms have been slipping "must be currently employed" requirements into online job postings, a practice President Obama has said "makes absolutely no sense."
The provision is modeled on legislation first sponsored this year by Democrats in the House of Representatives, which would ban hiring discrimination against the jobless (but would not make employment status a protected class like race or sex). Republican leaders in the House have embraced some elements of Obama's overall proposal, but spokesmen for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) did not respond to requests for comment on the jobless discrimination piece.
The proposed legislation states that hiring discrimination against the jobless undermines the nation's economic stability, squanders human capital, increases demand for unemployment insurance, imposes burdens on publicly funded health and welfare programs and depresses the government's tax revenue. The bill would ban discriminatory language in job ads and also discrimination against the jobless itself. Affected workers could file claims with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The ban would nevertheless give employers tons of leeway to favor workers with relevant recent work experience. Language in the bill says it is not intended "to preclude an employer or employment agency from considering an individual's employment history or examining the reasons underlying an individual’s status as unemployed in assessing the individual's ability to perform the job or otherwise making employment decisions about the individual."
Practically speaking, it's also unlikely that eliminating overt anti-unemployed job ads would prevent businesses from quietly passing over the jobless, a practice that would be difficult to prove.
In August, HuffPost surveyed more than 30 businesses responsible for such ads. Of the ones that responded, most disavowed the discriminatory language, though several staffing firms insisted their clients only wanted employed recruits (see the slideshow below).
Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), one of the original sponsors of legislation to ban the discrimination, hailed Obama's proposal in a statement.
"Discrimination against the unemployed -- especially the long-term unemployed -- in job ads and hiring practices flies in the face of what we stand for as a nation: Equal opportunity for all," Johnson said. "I'm proud to work with President Obama to stop this injustice."
Six million people have been out of work for six months or longer, according to the U.S. Labor Department.
Below is a slideshow of anti-unemployed job ads:
Frankel denied having an ad stating the unemployment need not apply. "That was not us, we never had an ad like that," they told HuffPost. "If we did have an ad, that would've been for one of our clients and not for us."
The Huffington Post tracked down an agent who represents the Poughkeepsie area for Gecko Hospitality, who said they have tried to make sure their ads do not include language against the unemployed. "We went through probably at the beginning of the year and we changed any of the ads that had that in it," an agent said. "That's all been changed, there should be nothing out there that says that right now. If there is, it's just kind of a rogue one that's just hanging out there that I'm not aware of." However, a copy of their ad online, obtained by HuffPost, found they still had an ad online in April saying applicants must have be "currently employed" or out of work for no more than three months.
A rep from Grobard told HuffPost it wasn't them that said applicants had to be employed, it was their clients. The representative said they've had no more than two profiles or job postings within five years which said candidates must be currently employed. Although, they also didn't believe it was any more discriminatory to require applicants be unemployed than it was to ask they have a Bachelor's degree.
Joan Iacona told HuffPost any ad they may have had regarding applicants be currently employed would have been from six months to a year ago. "I know that a lot of my clients want people who are employed, or recently employed. Maybe not so much anymore," said Iacona.
Kids In Sports claimed they had no idea they had an ad asking for someone to be "currently employed." They said they'd look into it, but did not return a call to HuffPost to follow up.
Alliance said it was an old posting and that they had no prior knowledge of language in postings.
Bond Street told HuffPost they were "just a staffing agency, we have no knowledge of the postings."
CornerStone Staffing didn't want to comment on the practices, and never returned a call after that.
A man who answered the phone and refused to identify himself said Ross Carlisle, a staffing firm, "only does what the client indicates" before hanging up on Huffpost.
Arthur Delaney is the author of "A People's History of the Great Recession," HuffPost's first e-book.