Democrats: Don't discriminate against unemployed

@CNNMoney October 19, 2011: 6:05 PM ET

WASHINGTON (CNNMoney) -- A group of Senate Democrats sent a letter to a big job-hunting website this week, asking the company to quit running help-wanted ads from companies that bar the unemployed from applying for jobs.

Lawmakers said they've seen several examples of employers advertising jobs on CareerBuilder.com that say applicants "must be currently employed" to apply.

"It is unreasonable and unfair to assume struggling Americans lost their job because of their work ethic or performance when so many businesses are struggling from financial hardship," according to the letter sent Tuesday by Sens. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.

CareerBuilder spokeswoman Jennifer Sullivan Grasz said Wednesday that the company received the letter and that it encourages employers to consider "applicants of all backgrounds." But the company's statement stopped short of saying CareerBuilder would consider the lawmakers' call to ban ads that discriminate against the unemployed.

The letter is just the latest in a new push, primarily by Democrats and advocacy groups like the NAACP, to put an end to discrimination against the 14 million workers who are currently unemployed.

In his $447 billion jobs package that failed in the Senate last week, President Obama also proposed making it illegal for companies with more than 15 workers to refuse to hire the unemployed or to advertise jobs that bar the unemployed from applying.

Obama's bill, which has rankled Republicans, would also allow job applicants to sue based on such discrimination.

"That's 14 million potential new clients that could go hire a lawyer and file a claim because they didn't get hired even though they were unemployed," said Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Texas Republican said on the House floor in September.

Similar legislation making discrimination against the unemployed illegal has been proposed by Democrats in the House and Senate.

The National Employment Law Project has been tracking instances where employers bar unemployed from applying, pointing out some 150 ads in a July report.

From Sept. 30 through Oct. 12, a researcher for that group found another 10 job ads on CareerBuilder in industries ranging from medical sales to legal services, that specified only those currently employed would be considered.

"We found this with just a few hours of research, with very little effort," said Maurice Emsellem, National Employment Law Project policy co-director. "The ads are just one level of the hiring process."

Another big web-based job firm, Indeed.com, announced last month that it would no longer take ads from employers that discriminate based on employment status.

But Mike Eastman, the U.S. Chamber of Comerce's executive director of Labor Law policy, stressed that under current law there are already severe repercussion for employers who inappropriately discriminate.

"It is incumbent upon those who want to change the law to first demonstrate that current law is not working," he said. "That case has not been made."  To top of page

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