Unemployment Discrimination

The country suffers from continuing high unemployment. The current official unemployment rate is 7.4%. The real unemployment rate is considerably higher because some unemployed people have stopped looking for work and don't get counted as unemployed. So, that's a lot of unemployed people. The unemployed people looking for work have trouble finding it in part because some employers, in a buyer's market, don't want to hire people who are unemployed. Sometimes they say so explicitly: "Unemployed people need not apply."

This article by law professor E. Ericka Kelsaw argues that unemployment discrimination should be illegal. Here is the abstract:

Fifteen years ago, a Note in the Harvard Law Review presented a thought-provoking discussion on the jobless and their place, or lack thereof, in discrimination theory. The Note advocated that “[b]eing jobless makes one a member of a large and disparate social class, one that has heretofore often gone unrecognized.” In the ensuing fifteen years, no additional articles have considered whether the jobless deserve a place in discrimination theory, eerily confirming that the “invisibility of the jobless causes them to be virtually disregarded.” This Article extends that investigation into the current controversy surrounding employers’ refusal to hire unemployed workers in the midst of a massive unemployment crisis. Although the unemployed as a class have historically experienced covert discrimination, in 2010, employers across the country began to boldly include in jobs ads that candidates “must be currently employed.” As a result of this alarming practice, federal, state, and local legislatures across the country responded by proposing legislation prohibiting unemployment discrimination. Looking at unemployment discrimination through the lens of cognitive psychology, this Article supports the notion that unemployment discrimination should be prohibited. Employment status is an arbitrary and unfair hiring criterion and current anti-discrimination law fails to adequately protect the unemployed, a vulnerable and powerless group. The Article argues that federal, state, and local governments should amend their employment discrimination laws to include protection for the unemployed.