On February 16, 2011, the EEOC held a public hearing to examine discrimination against the unemployed. According to the EEOC, the practice of considering only those currently employed for job vacancies, which many employers use as an indicator of good performance, may have a disparate impact against older women, people of color, and individuals with disabilities.
Following up on the EEOC’s initiative, on July 12, 2011, two democratic representatives introduced legislation that would block employers from discriminating against out-of-work applicants. The Fair Employment Opportunity Act of 2011, H.R. 2501, would keep employers and recruiters from refusing to consider unemployed workers for available positions, would prevent them from including language in job postings indicating that the unemployed should not apply, and would prohibit retaliation against any individual for engaging in activity protected under the Act.
Not content simply to enforce existing anti-discrimination laws, the EEOC is actively seeking to broaden the scope of protection. In the past eighteen months, it has held public hearings to explore discrimination against caregivers, employers’ use of credit histories as a screening tool and the use of leaves of absence as reasonable accommodation, as well as the more traditional subjects such as the impact of the economy on older workers and the employment of individuals with mental disabilities.
Next up- on July 26, the EEOC is holding a public hearing to explore barriers to employment suffered by those with arrest and conviction records.