By Barbara Perone
For nearly two years, it has been illegal for New Jersey businesses to dissuade unemployed candidates from applying for open positions by using discriminatory language in either print, or online, job advertisements.
In September, 2011, the state Legislature enacted N.J.S.A. 34:8B-1, signed into law by Governor Chris Christie, to ban prejudicial language from all job listings posted by businesses in the state; making it the first law of its kind in the United States.
Any New Jersey firm that violates this law faces a $1,000 fine for the first offense, a $5,000 penalty for the second offense, and up-to a $10,000 fine for each violation thereafter.
In the past, New Jersey companies were using statements in some job advertisements that contained language such as, “unemployed candidates will not be considered” or candidates “must be employed” to be considered for certain positions.
Discrimination against the unemployed is rampant — and seems to be getting worse as this long-running economic downturn continues. And the reasons employers do not want to hire those who have been unemployed for longer than six months range from the mildly amusing to the out-and-out ridiculous. Here are just a few:
- you can’t be sure why certain people really lost their jobs
- those who have jobs are proven to be valuable
- people who are working adjust quicker to a new job
- employed candidates have fresher job skills, and
- those who have been unemployed for an extensive period might not work as hard as those who are already employed because they have been out of the market for such a long time — after all, each company has to watch its bottom line.
In tandem with the New Jersey law, the federal government is still considering a bill, The Fair Employment Act of 2011, which would make it illegal for businesses across the country to refuse to hire any person based solely on his or her employment status. There’s only one hitch — if the bill does become law; employers could still have an out by requiring certain candidates to be employed in a bona fide occupation, as long as the qualifications are reasonably necessary to perform the new job.
Right now, this bill is at the committee stage of the legislative process in both the House and the Senate. So, unfortunately, this unspoken employment practice is still legal in virtually every state, nationwide.