Fair Employment Opportunity Act of 2011 – Explained

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According to Representatives Rosa DeLauro’s press release— In today’s tough economy, more than 6 million Americans have been out of work for more than six months. But companies across the country have begun to require current employment to be considered for available positions, and these discriminatory practices are eliminating employment opportunities. The Fair Employment Opportunity Act will prevent employers and employment agencies from refusing to consider or offer employment to someone who is unemployed, or including language in any job advertisements or postings that states unemployed individuals are not qualified.

“In a tough job market, where workers are competing against tens and sometimes hundreds of others for every available job opening, it is unjust for employers to discriminate against those who are unemployed. We have seen ample evidence that unemployed individuals are increasingly falling prey to discriminatory practices reducing their opportunities to be considered for a job,” said Congresswoman DeLauro. “The Fair Employment Opportunity Act of 2011 would prohibit employers and employment agencies from discriminating against unemployed job-seekers, and ensure that all Americans have the same opportunities for employment.”

The legislation, if passed by the House and Senate, would apply to employers with over fifteen (15) employees and would provide protection to job applicants who are discriminated against because they are unemployed. Key provisions of the Fair Employment Opportunity Act of 2011 include but are not limited to:

(a) Employers – It shall be an unlawful practice for an employer to–

  1. Refuse to consider for employment or refuse to offer employment to an individual because of the individual’s status as unemployed;
  2. Publish in print, on the Internet, or in any other medium, an advertisement or announcement for any job that includes—- any provision stating or indicating that an individual’s status as unemployed disqualifies the individual for a job; and- any provision stating or indicating that an employer will not consider an applicant for employment based on that individual’s status as unemployed; and
  3. Direct or request that an employment agency take an individual’s status as unemployed into account in screening or referring applicants for employment.

Joanne Deschenaux senior legal editor for SHRM advises, “Even if no federal law barring discrimination against the unemployed passes, employers should proceed cautiously in excluding those not working from job applicant pools, employment attorneys advise. Although it’s not illegal (except in New Jersey) for an employer to say that “we only want you to apply for a job if you’ve got one,” in applying that policy you are opening the door to so many unintended consequences. For example, if a particular applicant market had a disproportionate number of minorities who are out of work compared to non minorities, restricting the pool to employed individuals could have a disparate impact on minority applicants. A policy of hiring only from among the employed could result in disparate impact litigation.”

Disclaimer: The content of this post does not constitute direct legal advice and is designed for informational purposes only. Any issues regarding compliance and obligations under United States or International laws or regulations should be addressed through your legal department or outside counsel.
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