On March 13, 2013, the New York City Council, over Mayor Bloomberg’s veto, passed a law prohibiting discrimination against the unemployed in hiring. The law, effective June 11, 2013, amends the New York City Human Rights Law to expand the class of protected individuals to include the unemployed. The law applies to employers in New York City who employ four or more persons (including employees and/or independent contractors). The law defines an unemployed person as someone “not having a job, being available for work, and seeking employment” and prohibits covered employers from basing employment decisions “with regard to hiring, compensation or the terms, conditions or privileges of employment on an applicant’s unemployment.” Additionally, it prohibits all employers from advertising that a particular position requires applicants to be currently employed or that the employer will not consider applicants who are unemployed.
The national unemployment rate, as reported by the Department of Labor, has stubbornly remained at about 9% or higher for more than two years. As many of these unemployed individuals search for new jobs, some have purportedly been denied available employment opportunities simply because they were unemployed. Unemployment discrimination, as it is often called, is not currently prohibited under federal law. The EEOC and Congress, however, have taken steps focused on so-called unemployment discrimination that could affect how employers conduct their hiring processes.