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Legislative Effort Would Bar Hiring Discrimination Against Jobless

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By STEPHEN SINGER, AP Business Writer

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ Connecticut lawmakers are again trying to ban discrimination against unemployed job seekers, a problem that advocates say has not gone away even though the jobless rate has fallen from a peak of 9.5 percent in November 2010 to 7 percent in February.

A similar proposal fizzled in 2012.

Legislation would prohibit employers from mentioning in a job ad that being unemployed disqualifies an applicant or indicating that an employer will not consider an unemployed job-seeker.

Despite the improving economy, “we’ve been hearing more about it,” said Rep. Joe Aresimowicz, the House majority leader.

Connecticut’s largest business group supports the legislation, but wants lawmakers to remove a provision allowing job-hunters who suspect discrimination to go to Superior Court to seek fines against employers.

“The potential for abuse far outweighs the benefits,” said Eric Gjede, assistant counsel at the Connecticut Business and Industry Association.

Aresimowicz said compromise is possible. “It will be as close to a bipartisan bill as there is,” he said.

The General Assembly considered similar legislation in 2012 banning discriminatory job ads, but it failed to pass before the legislative session expired.

Twelve other states are considering similar prohibitions on employment status used in job postings, said the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Legislation is moving in Hawaii, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

The states are acting despite a 45 percent fall in the number of workers who have been jobless for more than 27 weeks, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The number of long-term out-of-work workers declined to 3.7 million in March from a high of 6.8 million in April 2010. That’s still more than three times the low point of 1.1 million long-term unemployed in December 2006, before the start of the recession.

Novlette Williams of West Hartford lost her insurance job nearly five years ago and has not found full-time work since. Williams, 60, blames age discrimination as much as her long-term joblessness.

“The barriers I face are hard to prove, but they are unmistakable,” she told lawmakers in February.

Mitchell Hirsch, an advocate for unemployed workers with the National Employment Law Project, criticized what he called compromise measures in states that consider only job postings while failing to address “exclusionary practices” among employers, recruiters and staffing firms that refuse to consider unemployed applicants.

“People don’t likely lose the skills they’ve used for years and years,” he said.

“The only thing they’re losing is their ability to go to work and the income that goes with that.”

Andrew L. Rodman, a Miami employment lawyer, said an Internet conversation he joined by asking if employers avoid hiring the unemployed became a “highly emotional” exchange.
“Employers said, `Yes, we do take this into consideration,”’ he said. “It was an eye-opening event.”

But Fernan Cepero, chief human resources officer at the YMCA of Greater Rochester, N.Y., said it’s hard to know the extent of discrimination.
“From a human resources best practices standpoint, I’d say it’s not happening,” he said. “You’re really constraining and limiting your talent pool.”
 (© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)  

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