Thursday, August 11, 2011

Discrimination Error: You're Unemployed, Therefore Unemployable.

I have been out of work for almost 8 months.  In that time, I have applied to Grad School, not been accepted to Grad school, looked for work, applied for work, had a death in the family, moved twice, started training to become a literacy and math tutor through Tompkins Learning Partners, decided to reapply to Grad School, registered for the GREs, and am now in the process of studying for the test, which I will take September 9th.

I am a white female who grew up in a middle-class family, where my mother stayed home running a daycare out of the house until she returned back to work around the time I was ten years old, and my father worked a full-time teaching job while supplementing his income with side jobs of carpentry and the like.  I started working when I was 12 or 13 years old first as a mother's helper, then babysitting, then an assistant swim instructor, then lifeguard, swim instructor, babysitter, and a cashier; all through high school and once I started college.  I have held several positions since graduating and this is the first time I have been unemployed, collecting unemployment (which isn't enough to live on when the job you lost wasn't salaried or even considered full-time work because it wasn't 40 hours) and food stamps.

I continue to become disenchanted with the portrayal of the unemployed population because it is from a narrow point-of-view.  However, the media is bringing it to light that the issue of unemployment is major and that companies are, like the government, kicking us while we're down and out.  July 25th, The New York Times ran the article, The Help-Wanted Sign Comes With A Frustrating Asterisk, by Catherine Rampell with the opening line, "The unemployed need not apply."  I'm not sure if it's more ironic or paradoxical, maybe both, but either way it makes no sense. The article makes a very real and undeniable point, "Given that the average duration of unemployment today is nine months — a record high — limiting a search to the “recently employed,” much less the currently employed, disqualifies millions."  But then takes a turn when trying to claim, "After all, there are legitimate reasons that many long-term unemployed workers may not be desirable job candidates. In some cases they may have been let go early in the recession, not just because business had slowed, but because they were incompetent."  While yes, there are incompetent people, using the discriminating method of denying anyone who is unemployed for any length of time doesn't actually allow the companies to get that information; if you don't look, you can't see.

The mentality that the unemployed should be grateful for any job opportunity, or to even take part-time or temporary work is also easy to have when you yourself are employed.  But when you are out of work, and searching the help-wanted/employment opportunity sections of the paper and on the various online sources, writing resumes and coverletters, following up with potential employers, interviewing, volunteering, researching school options or an entirely different field of work altogether, you don't want to sacrifice the little benefits afforded to you. I don't!  Not to work part-time, for not much more then what I'm receiving now.  It's a catch-22 because if the state sees that you have been hired for a job within the salary/pay bracket you fell under in your previous job, but you don't accept the job, you can potentially lose your benefits.  So, there is also this underlying balance act of applying to work, but also not to apply to something you wouldn't take even if it was offered.
 This controversy over whether or not discriminating against the unemployed during the hiring process should be protected continues.  Today in The Huffington Post the article, Unemployment Discrimination: Who's Afraid To Hire The Jobless? reports: "A recent report by the National Employment Law Project, a worker advocacy group, called out 73 businesses for asking in job postings that applicants be currently employed. "This perverse catch-22 is deepening our unemployment crisis by arbitrarily foreclosing job opportunities to many who are otherwise qualified for them," NELP said."  The Huffington Post contacted said businesses and many who did respond, passed the blame off onto staffing firms or third parties who are writing the ad's for them.  That is like so fifth grade of them; point the finger of blame at someone else.  Well, if I had a company and was looking to hire, even if I wasn't the person physically writing the ads myself, I would certainly want to know how my business was being represented in said ads.  "[And] Some staffing firms, when questioned by reporters, are upfront about their intention to recruit only people who currently have jobs. Martin Recruiting Partners, a restaurant staffing agency based in Georgia, ran ads which stated candidates "Must be currently working & ready to move for the right reason....Cypress Hospitality Group, a Florida-based staffing agency listed in the report, defended the ads it posted. "I don't see how 'current or very recent tenure' is discriminatory," a spokesperson said."  

Let me clear that up for them.
Discriminatory: (adjective) 1. based on or showing prejudice 2. biased 3. characterized by or showing prejudicial treatment, especially as an indication of racial, religious, or sexual bias.
Is that better? The article says, "Unlike race or gender, unemployment is not a protected status in most of the country because it has the ability to change. Helen Norton, associate professor at the University of Colorado School of Law, testified earlier this year before the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that discriminating by employment status would only be illegal if it is done to screen out a group like older workers, workers with disabilities, or minorities....On July 12, Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Henry Johnson, Jr. (D-Ga.) introduced the Fair Employment Opportunity Act of 2011. The legislation, if enacted, would prohibit employers and employment agencies from refusing to consider job applicants solely because they are unemployed. (Since that sort of discrimination is difficult to prove, employers would likely retain the ability to discriminate against the jobless, at least covertly.) Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) introduced the same bill in the Senate last week."

Claiming that agencies can still be discriminatory therefore it shouldn't be protected under said Act, wouldn't qualify as sufficient proof for an undergraduate persuasive argument paper, because in the end, anyone can discriminate based on gender, race, ability/disability, age, sexual orientation, or whether they have been unemployed for a day, a week, a month, or a year or more.  Out of all of the times discrimination happens, I don't think proof of said discrimination is provable as often as it occurs.  Does that mean none of it should be protected?  Does that mean one should be protected more than another?

Being unemployed is hard enough.  Living in a world that's full of stereotypes that validate discrimination adds to the burden to many once a job is lost.  Maybe instead of calling the rich "job creators" (because so many people used their tax break money to create jobs?)--if you missed my post Education Overhaul, there is a great clip where this is briefly but concisely addressed--and protecting the wealthiest people from paying sufficient taxes, which is allowing a very miniscule percent of the population to remain in a place of control, expanding the gap between rich and poor which is threatening the existence of the middle class; instead of talking and debating and creating this political-party back and forth, why not do something about it.  How about we stop focusing on the debt crisis this country has gotten itself into (I wrote about that in the post Mo Money, Mo Problems), stop placing blame on those where blame is not deserved, and start making these companies pay, make Wall Street own up to it's mistakes, stop shirking responsibility, and start working to make this country what people claim it is, the best.  Because quite frankly demanding respect never works, you've got to earn it; and right now it's not looking so great.


1 comment:

  1. I followed you here from Offbeat Home and really enjoyed reading this post.

    I live in Ireland, so we have a very different welfare system to the US, but we're also in a very deep recession with unemployment hovering around 15%. I was unemployed before, during the 'boom' years when our economy was strong, but I have been fortunate enough to hold a full-time job throughout the recession.

    I have applied for other jobs while employed and I actually find that being employed works against me. The first question I get asked during the application procedure is 'When can you start?' and when I explain that my current job requires a month's notice, they're no longer interested - naturally, because there are tons of well-qualified people who are unemployed and can start tomorrow!

    Which leaves me without the option of upgrading my salary, my skills and my experience beyond what is offered in my current workplace.

    I thought you might be interested in the other side of the coin as it's manifesting where I live - sorry to hear that so many employers aren't being understanding about unemployment. It definitely counts as discrimination.