HR Administration

EEOC Weighs How Hiring Affects Protected Groups

By Staff Report

Feb. 23, 2011

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission received conflicting testimony on whether employers are considering only those who are currently employed for job vacancies.

During a hearing Feb. 17, some speakers said that is the case and it likely is having a disparate impact on protected classes.

“Throughout its 45-year history, the EEOC has identified and remedied discrimination in hiring and remains committed to ensuring job applicants are treated fairly,” EEOC Chair Jacqueline Berrien said. “Today’s meeting gave the commission an important opportunity to learn about the emerging practice of excluding unemployed persons from applicant pools.”

Speakers at the meeting disagreed over the extent to which employers may be excluding the unemployed from job consideration.

Fernan Cepero, who spoke on behalf of the Alexandria, Virginia-based Society for Human Resource Management, said in written testimony that “SHRM is unaware of a widespread practice or trend to exclude unemployed individuals from consideration for available jobs. Employers, in SHRM’s experience, whether operating in the currently challenging economy or in more robust times, are focused on finding the right people for the job, regardless of whether or not they are currently employed.”

Cepero, who is human resources vice president at the YMCA of Greater Rochester in New York, said his organization hired 260 staff members last year who indicated they had been unemployed at least six months.

Also in written testimony, James Urban, a partner with the law firm Jones Day in Pittsburgh, said despite reports of employers excluding applicants from hiring because they were unemployed, a review of several newspapers’ classified sections failed to uncover “one single advertisement” stating the unemployed need not apply, which was consistent with his own extensive experience.

However, other speakers included Christine Owens, executive director of the New York-based National Employment Law Project, who said in her written testimony that “there is a disturbing and growing trend among employers—honored by staffing firms—to refuse to consider the unemployed for available job openings, regardless of their qualifications.”

She said “the evidence is strong that excluding unemployed workers from job consideration will have a disparate impact on people of color and this is particularly true for African-Americans” and has a “real and substantial” impact on older workers, as well.

“It’s important to explore every available legal option to prevent this practice from spreading and cause even more damage at a time when workers are already suffering from record rates of joblessness,” Owens said.  

Filed by Judy Greenwald of Business Insurance, a sister publication of Workforce Management. To comment, e-mail


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