Members of the high court have consistently ruled that under Title VII and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, even hiring practices that are neutral or not intentionally discriminatory at face value, can nonetheless be deemed illegal if they affect certain protected classes, such as minorities, women, and older workers.
In this case, African-Americans are no doubt greatly impacted by the practice of hiring only those who are currently working.
But so, too, are women who may be returning to the workplace after childbearing years. Moreover, older workers suffer from disproportionately higher rates of unemployment, so any employer who only hires someone currently working may be inadvertently discriminating against older workers as well.
All of which raises the question: Why the prohibition against unemployed workers in the first place? I’m sure some employers would argue that they’re seeking only the “best” employees, and that someone who’s been laid off, or who’s been out of work for a significant amount of time doesn’t fit the bill.
But clearly that argument can’t be true for all jobless Americans. Many people lose jobs due to reasons completely beyond their control, such as corporate mergers and acquisitions, a department shutting down, or even an entire company going out of business. By screening out these laid-off individuals, employers could be missing out of the opportunity to hire truly talented, skilled workers.
So the presumption that jobless individuals aren’t good, qualified or desirable as potential employees isn’t just discriminatory, it’s also bad business.
Lynnette Khalfani-Cox is a weekly money and finance columnist for BlackEnterprise.com and founder of the free financial advice blog, AskTheMoneyCoach.com. Follow her on Twitter @themoneycoach and see her column every Tuesday on BlackEnterprise.com.