NYC Law Aims to Protect Unemployed from Discrimination

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Published March 15, 2013

| FOXBusiness

Long-term unemployed workers in Manhattan struggling to find a job just got a new ally in their search: the city. New York City lawmakers passed new provisions this week barring employers from discriminating against out-of-work job applicants.

Despite a veto from Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the laws will take effect in three months and makes New York City among a handful of other cities in the U.S. with similar protections in place. New Jersey was the first state to enact a similar law, offering tax breaks for businesses who hire long-term unemployed workers. Fifteen other states have similar bills under consideration.

Discrimination does exist against those who have been out of work for an extended period of time, claims Ross Eisenbrey, vice president of the Economic Policy Institute, but he says the law will not be easy to enact.

“This will prohibit advertisements that say ‘We are not hiring the unemployed…[but] there are lots of reasons for employers picking one applicant over another.”

The state of the current labor market gives hiring managers the upper hand in terms of hiring workers because the candidate pool is so large, Eisenbrey says.

“A lot of employers are looking for the perfect candidate, and to them, that may not be someone who was long-term unemployed. Because they are unsure of where the economy is going they are holding back on hiring.”

Career coach and author of The Wall Street Professional’s Survivor Guide Roy Cohen isn’t so quick to blame employers for not hiring out-of-work people pointing out that they might not have kept current with updates in their industries or lack relevant skills. For example, if a long-term unemployed candidate applies for a sales position and is asked to show his/her book of business for the past two-to-three years and can’t, they may not be hired.

“This is difficult to enforce, because if the employer can demonstrate that you don’t have what they need, it’s not discrimination,” Cohen says.

If the law is effectively enforced, Eisenbrey argues it will help boost local jobless numbers.

“I don’t think it will make a huge difference, but I think it definitely will spread [to other cities]. There are a lot of people out there who want to work and are qualified and who aren’t getting hired.  What will make a big difference are macroeconomic decisions, like shrinking the federal budget or spending on infrastructure— that will put people back to work.”

For people who have been out of work for an extended period of time, experts offer the following advice to bolster their resume and increase their hiring chances:  

Stay relevant. Volunteer or work with companies to help keep skills up to date and relevant, Cohen recommends. But be sure to align the volunteering, or consulting with the sought-after industry.

“Working in a soup kitchen handing out meals is nice, but its different than helping a nonprofit with their food purchasing,” he says.

Don’t hide. Unemployed workers should be honest with hiring manager about their time out of the workforce, but should be able to show that the time was used to increase or enhance skills.  “Show that you were occupied and speak with passion,” he says.

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