U.S. House of Rep. Follows NJ to Protect Against Discrimination Against the Unemployed

In May of this year I wrote a blog about N.J.S.A. 34:8B-1 et seq.  –  a new New Jersey law  prohibiting  employers from discriminating against the unemployed in print and internet job advertisements.   Now, the U.S House of Representatives has proposed a similar law – the   “Fair Employment Opportunity Act of 2011” (HR 2501(1) – the “Act”) which protects the unemployed from “discrimination” shown by potential employers.

Under the Act, employers with 15 or more employees (including staffing firms) are prohibited from “discriminating” against job applicants due to their employment status.  Discriminatory acts include refusing to consider an applicant due to his/her unemployed status, impeding access to information available to the unemployed regarding jobs, and placing ads that state that the unemployed “need not apply.”  Unlike the related NJ law, the Act (i) provides for a private right of action, (ii) delineates a very broad range of remedies (including the payment of attorney fees) and (iii) includes a whistleblower protection provision.

While the New Jersey act was bad enough in that it is just one more seemingly meaningless governmental regulation over the private sector, the Act goes significantly beyond the protections afforded by New Jersey law.   While the Act’s intention (to get people back into the workforce) may be good, is there any logic in adding one more Federal regulation to get employers to hire?   I think not.

While the Act is not yet law, if employers are not already reviewing their hiring procedures (inclusive of those of their employment agencies) due to the New Jersey law, they should start doing so in light of the proposed Act.

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