Gentile, Quinn, Council Members Introduce Legislation To Protect Unemployed Job Seekers

March 27, 2012 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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NEW YORK — Brooklyn City Councilman Vincent Gentile, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer and a host of other officials gathered late last week to announce the introduction of legislation that will prohibit employers from using a person’s job status in a hiring decision.

The proposed law will also ban “help-wanted” ads that state that the unemployed will not be considered for posted job openings. Quinn first announced the proposal, sponsored by Gentile and Queens Councilman Leroy Comrie, during her State of the City address last month.

Since the economic downturn, officials have reported seeing several examples of job postings that require would-be candidates to be currently employed.

“While there are encouraging signs that our economy is beginning to improve, the recovery is still fragile and we must do more to help New Yorkers find work. Prohibiting employers from discriminating against the unemployed will end a practice that has kept too many of our city’s residents from applying for work they are qualified to do,” said Quinn.

New York City’s unemployment rate rose in January to a 16-month high of 9.3 percent, up from 9.1 percent in December — one percentage point higher than the nationwide unemployment rate of 8.3 percent. The situation is particularly damaging for low-income and minority residents, who have endured the worst of this recession.

Within this economic market, screening out job applicants based on their unemployment status prevents well-qualified New Yorkers from applying for jobs. Further, there is no evidence to prove that someone is unemployed is a predictor of job performance.

The legislation would prohibit employers from advertising or announcing a job opening with language that the unemployed need not apply.

Under this law, employers would still be permitted to request or use someone’s unemployment status information, as long as they have a bona fide reason for doing so or if they need to assess the circumstances of an applicant’s previous termination or demotion from another position.

 “Preventing otherwise well-qualified men and women from applying for a job simply because they are currently unemployed is counterintuitive and unconscionable,” said Gentile. “Now is not the time for catch-22’s – we need to be doing everything we can to help New Yorkers get back to work. This important piece of anti-discrimination legislation arrives not a moment too soon.”

Mitchell Hirsch, an advocate with the National Employment Law Project, said, “We applaud Councilmembers Comrie and Gentile and Speaker Quinn for acknowledging the serious problem of job market practices that exclude unemployed job-seekers from consideration for employment, and for taking this step to bringing these discriminatory practices to an end in New York City.”

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