Gov. Chris Christie has signed a bill barring discrimination against the unemployed, making it illegal for New Jersey employers to refuse to hire applicants just because they are not currently working. Violators face fines of up to $1,000 for a first offense and $5,000 for subsequent offenses.
The new law also prohibits employers from publishing job advertisements—in print or online—that state unemployed individuals can’t apply for the position.
The EEOC and employee advocates had become alarmed with the practice as the recession deepened. The fear: That employers were using “unemployed need not apply” stipulations simply to exclude large numbers of applications—and that doing so may have a disparate impact on minorities and women.
Nationwide, the EEOC has promised aggressive enforcement if it finds the practice disproportionately affects minorities and women.
The law is the first of its kind in the nation. Until New Jersey enacted the new measure, there was no law against refusing to hire the unemployed as long as the practice did not disparately impact protected groups.
Advice: Check your job applications and advertisements. Remove anything that suggests applicants must be currently employed. Experts say there’s little evidence that excluding unemployed people from the applicant pool actually results in hiring the best-qualified workforce.