New York City employers can no longer refuse to hire the unemployed. A new law, Intro 814-A “Prohibiting discrimination based on an individual’s unemployment” allows applicants who are rejected to either sue the employer or report discrimination to theNew York City Commission on Human Rights which could then order the employer to stop discriminatory practices or penalize the violator and require the applicants to be hired. The law was passed by the New York City Council on March 13 and will take effect on June 11. It is the first law of this kind in the country which provides a private cause of action for people who are refused employment because they lack a job.
Under this law, it will be illegal for an employer to base a hiring decision on an applicant’s unemployment without a substantially job-related reason for doing so. Under the legislation, it will also be illegal for employers to post in job advertisements that current employment is a job requirement, or that unemployed applicants will not be considered for the position.
Unlike race for instance, which an employer can never consider, there are circumstances where an employer could reasonably consider an applicant’s unemployment. This law was passed in acknowledgment of the fact that employers used to consider unemployment as a cause in certain cases to deny applicants. For example, an employer could consider whether an applicant has a current or valid professional license; a certificate, permit or other credential; or a minimum level of education or training.
No longer so, in New York City which has an unemployment rate of 9.4%, which far exceeds the national average (7.8%). More than half of unemployed New Yorkers were actively seeking work for more than six months and nearly a third were actively looking for work after searching for more than a year.
Speaker Christine C. Quinn had emphatically announced in January this year that, “We cannot- and will not – allow New Yorkers who are qualified and ready to work have the door of opportunity slammed in their faces.”