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Posted February 18th, 2013 in Legal Insights

News Tips -The Unemployed: A Protected Class?

Historically, gaps in employment history, including present unemployment, have often served as “red flags” for employers during the screening and hiring process. With the national unemployment rate hovering at or above nine percent, Congress, aided by the support of the Obama administration and its proposed “American Jobs Act,” are taking steps to curtail the practice of using unemployment as a hiring factor. Residing with the House’s subcommittee on health, employment, labor and pensions, the Fair Employment Act of 2011 (H.R. 1113) is a proposed amendment to Title VII that would add unemployment status as a protected category. Another bill, the Fair Employment Opportunity Act of 2011 (H.R. 2501) targets employment actions commonly viewed as discriminatory against the unemployed. “Adoption of either bill would be a transformative change to the law,” says Nilan Johnson Lewis Shareholder David James. “Tracking this issue is important, as employers would need to significantly revise their screening, interviewing and hiring practices should either of these laws come to fruition.” With Oregon and New Jersey recently enacting state laws that prohibit unemployment-based screening, this issue will continue to occupy the attention of hiring managers in the weeks and months ahead. Contact David James at (612) 305-7573 or

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