The New Jersey legislature recently approved a bill that would penalize employers for discriminating against job applicants who are unemployed. The legislation is aimed to help the long-term unemployed re-enter the workforce by prohibiting employers from refusing to accept applications from the unemployed.

A 30-5 vote by the New Jersey Senate advanced S-1440 and cleared a hurdle for the bill designed to combat employment status discrimination. The Senate’s passage of S-1440 was its second approval by the full Senate since its introduction in February. In May, the Senate passed the bill more narrowly before introducing it to the General Assembly’s Labor Committee. In May, the Assembly committee advanced the bill with amendments and in June, the full body approved it.

The Assembly version of the bill clarifies that the bill prohibits discrimination against unemployed individuals in employment decisions, but that employers can still research an applicant’s employment history and consider whether an individual is unemployed. The bill will take effect after Gov. Chris Christie signs it into law.  

Violations of the measure would implicate civil penalties of $1,000 for the first violation, $5,000 for the second violation, and $10,000 for each additional violation. If approved, New Jersey would join New York, Oregon, and Washington D.C. as locations with legislation in place to prevent employment status discrimination. Over a dozen additional states have introduced similar bills. Employers should monitor approval of these laws in jurisdictions where they operate, and ensure there is appropriate training with human resources and management.