It is illegal for employers to discriminate against potential employees on the basis of their race, religion or gender. But employment status? Kim Keough of Bethel is among the unemployed and underemployed to learn that for some jobs, the unemployed need not apply.
Keough, who was laid off in 2008, made that discovery in August after pursuing a job opening in Stamford that she found online through a local recruiting web site. With 20 years experience in human resources, the job seemed perfect.
“I tried to apply for the position, but the recruiter e-mailed me back and said, ‘This particular client is very picky about resumes. They won’t consider anyone who isn’t currently working,'” Keough said.
But Keough was working. After losing her job at Stolt Nielsen Transportation Group, a Maritime operations company in Norwalk, Keough had started working part-time at The Daily Fare, a café in Bethel’s train station.
“I told her that I’m working part-time, but don’t have that on my resume since it isn’t in my field, and I got the following response: ‘No, they are just tough.’ “
With constituents like Keough in mind, U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and two Democratic colleagues, Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Sherrod Brown of Ohio, wrote to CareerBuilder, a major job search site, to ask that it bar employers from ruling out the unemployed in their ads.
“We are writing to request that CareerBuilder prohibit companies from posting job opportunities that discriminate against potential applicants based on their employment status,” the senators say in a letter to Matt Ferguson, the site’s chief executive officer. “During this period of high unemployment, our nation’s economic recovery depends on new employment opportunities for unemployed workers.”
Jennifer Grasz, communications director for CareerBuilder, said the website encourages companies to consider all applicants. She didn’t say if CareerBuilder planned to take definitive action against companies considering employment status.
“CareerBuilder strongly supports fair and equal hiring practices,” she said in an e-mail. “Every segment of the workforce brings unique skills and value to the workplace. If you exclude any segment from your applicant pool, you are missing out on valuable talent that could benefit your organization. We encourage all of our customers to consider applicants of all backgrounds.”
Indeed.com, a Connecticut-based job placement website, announced it would ban companies from posting listings that discriminate against the unemployed after Blumenthal co-sponsored The Fair Employment Opportunity Act of 2011 in August.
The act would make it illegal for employers to refuse employment because an individual is unemployed. It would also prohibit employers and employment agencies, like CareerBuilder, from advertising that they won’t consider unemployed persons, and it prohibits them from using employment as a factor during the screening process.
Keough said Indeed.com’s announcement proves a good first step, but it’s not enough.
“This is a step in the right direction,” she said. “But more needs to be done to prevent the discrimination.”
In her job search, Keough said she came across the National Employment Law Project, a national advocacy organization for employment rights for low-wage workers. She said the group asked people to send in their stories about unemployment discrimination. She did, and the group suggested that she write a letter to Blumenthal’s office.
“Some of the currently employed just aren’t going to be as dedicated as someone who really needs a good full time job,” Keough said in her letter to Blumenthal.
Blumenthal’s office used her story in the letter sent to CareerBuilder’s CEO. Keough said the website hosting the Stamford job listing that refused her wasn’t CareerBuilder, but a local job placement website she didn’t want to name. She said she knew the recruiter personally after spending 20 years in human resources.
Keough said job postings and companies that won’t consider hiring the unemployed miss out on hiring dedicated workers who just haven’t found a lucky break yet.
“People don’t choose to be unemployed,” she said. “You can’t say that somebody who’s employed is better than an unemployed person, because it only means that unemployed person hasn’t been tapped on the back yet.”