Economy

Unemployed Need Not Apply: State Bans Want-Ad Ploy

A woman walks by a "Help Wanted" sign taped to the window of a restaurant in San Francisco. Some employers are refusing to consider hiring anyone who doesn't already have a job, leading to increased scrutiny by the EEOC. i i

A woman walks by a "Help Wanted" sign taped to the window of a restaurant in San Francisco. Some employers are refusing to consider hiring anyone who doesn't already have a job, leading to increased scrutiny by the EEOC. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
A woman walks by a "Help Wanted" sign taped to the window of a restaurant in San Francisco. Some employers are refusing to consider hiring anyone who doesn't already have a job, leading to increased scrutiny by the EEOC.

A woman walks by a "Help Wanted" sign taped to the window of a restaurant in San Francisco. Some employers are refusing to consider hiring anyone who doesn't already have a job, leading to increased scrutiny by the EEOC.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

They say it takes money to make money — but does it take a job to land a job? Some companies in New Jersey think so, leading the state to enact a new law that forbids employers from requiring that all new job applicants be currently employed.

The law is evidently the first of its kind in the United States. Joel Rose filed a report for Newscast:

The law's sponsors say it has become common for businesses in New Jersey to post want ads with caveats like "must be employed" or "no unemployed candidates will be considered." Supporters of the law say that disproportionally hurts minority workers, who are more likely to be unemployed.

Lawmakers in New Jersey say they're the first to outlaw the practice. At first, Gov. Chris Christie vetoed the bill, saying businesses in the state are already over-regulated. But Christie suggested some changes to the bill, and signed it into law this week.

New Jersey isn't the only place where this is happening — the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission is keeping an eye on companies in other states, as well.

In testimony from this year archived on the EEOC site, Christine L. Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, described some examples of companies using help-wanted ads to filter out anyone who didn't already have a job.

In the case of one Texas electronics company looking to hire an engineer, the ad said that its hiring managers would "not consider/review anyone NOT currently employed regardless of the reason."

A recent editorial in The New York Times sought to highlight the potentially illegal effects of the practice:

Jobless workers are not specifically protected by antidiscrimination laws, but various laws outlaw hiring bias on the basis of sex, race, national origin, religion, age and disability.

Since African-Americans, older workers — especially older women — and disabled workers have been hit particularly hard in the downturn, discriminating against unemployed people in those groups may violate the law.

Our friends at the Planet Money blog have turned the national job numbers into charts that highlight the age and sex of the jobless, as well as how long they've been unemployed.

Despite today's news that the national unemployment numbers had dropped, more than 13 million Americans are currently without work.

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