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Banning Discrimination Against the Unemployed

David Callahan

On Wednesday, the New York City Council passed a law banning discrimination against the unemployed by a huge, and veto-proof, margin -- 44 to 4.

It's no surprise that the vote was so lopsided. The fact that employers legally can -- and routinely do -- discriminate against unemployed job applicants is, well, repulsive. It violates that fundamental American ideal that everyone should get a decent shot at pulling themselves up and bettering themselves through work. Tossing the CVs of the unemployed into the trash -- or telling them not to apply at all -- is an example of kicking people when they're down, and down through no fault of their own. 

A number of studies -- including this one by NELP -- have documented how shockingly pervasive such discrimination is in today's job market. Many help wanted ads include language like "must be currently employed."

How backward is that? Every day we hear about the negatives of unemployment, for the economy, the deficit, and for individuals, and we also often hear about the large numbers of unfilled job openings at any given time. But if employers only hire from among the ranks of the already employed, it's going to be a lot more difficult for the economy to turn around.