Are companies not hiring unemployed people?
By Sam Hananel, Associated PressWednesday, February 16, 2011
WASHINGTON — Are companies saying no to jobless applicants when there are job openings?After news accounts about the practice and requests from concerned lawmakers,the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has jumped in, trying to figure outwhether it's widespread and could violate federal job discrimination laws.Commissioners at an EEOC hearing Wednesday said they are investigating whether excluding the unemployed may have a greater effect on blacks, Latinos and other ethnic minorities that tend to have higher jobless rates. There are no specific legalprotections for the unemployed."The potential for disparate impact is there," said William Spriggs, assistantsecretary for policy at the Department of Labor.Overall unemployment is 9%, with nearly 14 million people out of work. The joblessrate is 15.7% among blacks and 11.9% among Hispanics, according the Bureau of Labor Statistics.Spriggs said the chances of an employer considering an ethnic minority aredecreased by one-third if jobless applicants are excluded. The pool of disabledapplicants would be reduced nearly 50%, he said.The EEOC, which enforces job discrimination laws, has not issued any guidance onthe issue. But some on the five-member agency suggested that could be coming."I hope this gives our people in the field information to start thinking about a possibleproblem out there," said Stuart Ishimaru, one of three Democrats on thecommission. "For employers it raises serious question of liability if, in fact, there is adisparate impact."Spriggs said it would be difficult for the government to measure the problembecause most job openings are not posted publicly. The Labor Department is awareof anecdotal reports that some recent company advertisements have discouragedthe unemployed from applying.He said officials are concerned the practice could hamper the government's effortsto help millions of unemployed get back to work.