With an estimated 13.7 million Americans out of work, the federal government is investigating reports that some companies are saying in job ads that they won't consider applicants who are unemployed. There are no statistics on the extent to which this is happening, only anecdotal reports, but the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's interest suggests companies should tread carefully. While there's no law that prohibits employers from refusing to consider job applicants who are unemployed, the EEOC is considering whether the practice discriminates by having a "disparate impact" on certain groups. At an EEOC hearing in February, witnesses argued that excluding the unemployed could have an outsized effect on groups including blacks, Hispanics, women, older workers and the disabled.
Lawyers say the inquiry about policies on unemployed applicants is similar to the EEOC's approach to hiring practices such as credit checks and criminal records checks.