New bill would prohibit unemployment discrimination

As if unemployment wasn’t stressful enough, job seekers out of work are also facing discrimination.

It’s perhaps not as blatant as a few years ago when companies specified in job ads that the unemployed need not apply. But it’s serious enough for lawmakers to have introduced the Fair Employment Opportunity Act of 2014, which would prohibit employers and employment agencies from discriminating against unemployed job seekers by refusing to consider them for employment. The bill is in committee.

Career coaches and human resource consultants say the discrimination trend is not one that should be ignored.

“This is a relatively new type of discrimination that is perfectly legal and that may be having more of an impact on the economy than people realize,” says Matt Youngquist, a career coach in Bellevue, Wash.

Even though unemployment rates have dropped, some 3.7 million Americans have been out of work for more than six months. A 2014 study published by Alan Krueger and other Princeton University economists reported that finding work becomes more difficult as more time passes. Only 11 percent of the long-term unemployed in any given month found full-time work a year later.

Youngquist says that at the peak of unemployment, companies faced the challenge of reviewing a high number of resumes and wanted to filter out certain people. Yet the misguided attitudes are disturbing.

“In a new marketplace where organizations can be bought, sold and transformed overnight, it seems antiquated to assume that any job seeker who is out of work must not be good at what they do,” Youngquist adds.

And while there is little job seekers can do to avoid unemployment discrimination, they can work harder at finding work and filling the gaps on their resume.

“There is little that will replace full-time work, but at least you show that you are staying busy and active in your profession,” Youngquist says.

He offers the following suggestions for offsetting unemployment discrimination and finding work faster:

• Line up special projects or professional endeavor to keep you occupied.

• Try to find work as a consultant.

• Form a professional networking group.

• Teach or volunteer in organizations related to your field.

• Engage in a high number of daily contacts and leads.

• Clarify your career goals and craft a clear answer to the question “what are you looking for?”

• Build breaks, rewards, leisure activities and stress management activities into your job search regimen.

• Embrace the new realities of the job market and accept the fact that tactics have changed dramatically.

• Engage in the steady stream of reading, training and other professional development activities to stay current in your field.

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