Discriminating Against the Long-term Unemployed: Tips to Avoid This Practice

by Michael Haberman on March 26, 2012 · 1 comment


For the past couple of years stories have appeared, and continue to appear, about employers “discriminating” against the long-term unemployed. I have written on the subject previously in Striking Down Discrimination Against the Unemployed and in Does Unemployed = Unqualified? Refusing to Hire the Long-Term Unemployed. An article written by Stephen Singer of the Associated Press, details that this poor human resources decision-making continues. As a result more and more states are considering legislation to stop this practice. According to Singer “As of January, California, Connecticut, Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota and Tennessee were considering legislation….” A New Jersey Assemblywoman was quoted saying “I found that absolutely reprehensible. When you apply for a job, you should be viewed based upon your skill level, not whether you have a job or not.”

I happen to agree with this person, but at the same time I understand some of the reasoning of employers, but not all of it. Some of it is bias based on a lack of understanding or a lack of a complete consideration of an applicant’s background. So here is a repeat of some of the tips I previously proposed that can help employers avoid this biased practice of selection.

  • Be more specific in your minimum requirements. “Must be able to lift 50 lbs. and have warehouse experience” is going to get you way too many people. Besides you have to be willing to make a reasonable accommodation on the lifting. If you have a particular warehouse computer system then make experience with that a minimum requirement. Increasing your “minimum requirements” and stating that they are a minimum will help some.
  • If you have a particular skill that is necessary and you want to make sure that the applicant has it use a screening test. There are commercial tests that have been shown to be both valid and reliable that will help you cull through applicants.
  • If you are anticipating a large volume of applicants and don’t have the staff to handle it, then consider outsourcing the process.
  • Don’t accept applications if you don’t have an opening.

As an employer be forewarned there may be a major downside to you not changing your biased ways. This includes bad publicity; attracting the attention of unions; and now legislative fines. We DO NOT need to have new legislation introduced to try to control this. Let us all do our part to prevent any more legal requirements being added to our burden of day-to-day human resources.

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