NYC Council Moves To Protect City’s Unemployed

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The NYC Council just passed a bill prohibiting employers from considering a job applicant’s current employment status when making a hiring decision. The bill is one of many recent initiatives at the federal, state and local level seeking to combat the nation’s unemployment rate. New York’s current unemployment rate is 8.8%, and 51% of unemployed New Yorkers have been searching for a job for over six months.

NYC is not the first to pass legislation seeking to protect the unemployed from discrimination. For example, New Jersey already prohibits employers from publishing job advertisements stating current employment is a requirement for job consideration. However, the new NYC law is the first to afford applicants a private cause of action in court for discrimination if they believe they have been discriminated against based on their unemployed status.

Mayor Bloomberg has stated his belief that the bill will discourage small businesses from hiring due to the threat of litigation, and he may veto it. However, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn vows the Council will override the Mayor’s veto.

In anticipation of the bill taking effect, NYC employers should evaluate hiring criteria and consider how employees’ present employment status is factored.  This is particularly important because of the risk of increased litigation stemming from claims of unlawful discrimination based on unemployed status.