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Unemployed seek protection against job bias

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SAM HANANEL
October 9, 2011
— After two years on the unemployment rolls, Selena Forte thought she'd found a temporary job at FedEx that met her qualifications.

But Forte, a 55-year-old from Cleveland, says a job recruiter for a temporary agency told her the company wouldn't consider her because she had been out of work too long.


"They didn't even want to hear about my experience," said Forte, a former bus driver. "It didn't make sense. You're always told just go out there and get a job."


Forte, who last month found a part-time job as a substitute school bus driver, is part of a growing number of unemployed or underemployed Americans who complain they are being screened out of job openings for the very reason they're looking for work in the first place. Some companies and job agencies prefer applicants who already have jobs, or haven't been jobless too long.


She could get help from a provision in President Barack Obama's jobs bill, which would ban companies with 15 or more employees from refusing to consider or offer a job to someone who is unemployed. The measure also applies to employment agencies and would prohibit want ads that disqualify applicants just because they are unemployed.


Obama's bill faces a troubled path in Congress, as Republicans strongly oppose its plans for tax increases on the wealthy and other spending provisions.


The effort to protect the unemployed has drawn praise from workers' rights advocates, but business groups say it will just stir up needless litigation by frustrated job applicants. The provision would give those claiming discrimination a right to sue, and violators would face fines of up to $1,000 per day, plus attorney fees and costs.



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