New Bill Addresses Serious Employment Obstacle for Many: Must Be Currently Employed

Last week a new bill, The Fair Employment Act of 2011 (H.R. 1113), was introduced before the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill was introduced to protect unemployed people from discrimination.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Henry “Hank” Johnson (D-Ga.), told the Huffington Post that he was troubled by want ads specifying that only currently employed job seekers need apply:

“I just thought about how unfair that was, to discriminate against people who had lost their jobs due to no fault of their own, who were just victims of corporate downsizing during a tough economy. And then to be penalized for having that status is very unfair. It reminded me of the days when blacks were told to not apply for jobs, when job ads said ‘No women allowed.’ This really affected me, and I decided that there was something that we could do.”

The HuffPo article links to several want ads that contained the “must be currently employed” language, including a posting for a legal secretary by McGuireWoods, which has offices in California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Washington, D.C., as well as Belgium and the UK. The ad is no longer live at the firm’s site, indicating the firm is no longer accepting applications for the position. The phrase “must be currently employed” is contained in the cached ad.

For a law firm that advertises its commitment to diversity, it is disturbing to think that tolerance does not extend to experienced legal professionals that have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. While it is encouraging to see that the “must be currently employed” qualification is no longer listed in McGuire Woods’ current staff career want ads, I can’t help but wonder if the screening process at this law firm – and to be fair, many other law firms – still results in jobless applicants’ resumes moving to the bottom of the stack.

I think most legal professionals know that not having a job, or having a significant employment gap, is a serious obstacle to employment. Given the disastrous economy of the last several years, and its devastating affect on legal hiring, I’m glad that H.R. 1113 makes this serious issue a matter of public discussion and censure.

For those Practical Paralegalism readers currently seeking employment, if you see any legal support staff positions with the “must be currently employed” qualification included, I would appreciate it very much if you will email the links to me at lynne.devenny@gmail.com. (Of course, if you see any legal support staff ads that are merely hilarious, I welcome those submissions, too.)

It’s tiny but bright.

You can track the bill’s progress at http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h112-1113 and have updates delivered via your RSS feed reader. (Quick note: any website that offers RSS feed subscriptions will have the orange symbol displayed to the right of the URL.)

Addendum: California legal secretary, Kathy Anderson, single, laid off three times in the last two years, and having exhausted her entitlement to unemployment benefits, found herself living in a Murrieta homeless shelter for the first time last week. She is one of the jobless H.R. 1113 will try to protect from employment discrimination.

Source: Huffington Post

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