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Sen. Leone: Bill prevents discrimination against unemployed

Published 5:53 pm, Sunday, May 6, 2012
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With thousands of people still seeking jobs in Connecticut, a bill that would prohibit stating that "the unemployed need not apply" in help-wanted ads passed the State Senate today on a 30 to 5 vote, bill co-sponsor State Senator Carlo Leone (D-Stamford) said.

Senate Bill 79 prohibits people, businesses, labor organizations and employment agencies from advertising job opportunities in a way that discriminates against a person because they are unemployed, unless there is a bona fide occupational qualification or need.

"This legislation is about protecting people who, through no fault of their own, have found themselves out of work in a very difficult economy," Leone said. "This recession has gone on longer than any in recent memory. There are many people looking for work -- who want to work -- with all the skills and experience necessary to fill a post. Despite that, they are being told not to apply just because they don't have a job right now, or have been searching for a job for a long time. That is just wrong."

A recent study by the National Employment Law Project reviewed four weeks of job postings in 2011 on four of the nation's most prominent online job listing websites; more than 150 ads were identified that included exclusions based on current employment status, including 125 ads that identified specific companies by name.

It is already against state law for employers to discriminate based on a person's race, color, religious creed, age, sex, gender identity or expression, marital status, national origin, ancestry or their present or past history of mental, intellectual, learning or physical disability.

Connecticut's March unemployment rate was 7.7 percent, the lowest in three years, according to the State Labor Department. Still, there are 148,000 residents looking for work out of a non-farm labor pool of 1.63 million.

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, Oregon and the District of Columbia have already passed unemployed discrimination laws, and at least a dozen other states are considering -- or have considered -- some sort of protection for unemployed job applicants during their 2012 legislative sessions, including California, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.

Last fall, President Barack Obama backed a proposal to make it unlawful for a business with 15 or more employees to not hire someone due to their employment status.

If passed by the House of Representatives and signed into law by the governor, Senate Bill 79 would take effect Oct. 1. Violations would be subject to a variety of corrective actions, including cease and desist orders, the payment of back wages or the hiring or reinstatement of employees.

More information on the current employment situation in Connecticut may be found at the state Department of Labor's website.