The push from federal lawmakers to protect the unemployed from discrimination has heated up considerably since Congressman Louie Gohmert, Texas Republican, went to the the floor of the House last week and highlighted a portion of President Barack Obama’s jobs bill that prohibits employers from discriminating against potential employees as a result of one’s unemployed status.
“We are adding in this bill a new protected class called ‘unemployed.’ Titled on page 129 prohibition of discrimination in employment on the basis of an individual’s status as unemployed and it says right here in the findings, ‘…that we find the denial of unemployment opportunities to individuals because of their status as unemployed is discriminatory and burdens commerce,’” Congressman Gohmert said in disbelief.
He then added, “So the good news is if you’re unemployed and you go and apply for a job and you’re not hired for that job, see a lawyer. You may be able, to file a claim, because you got discriminated against, because you were unemployed.”
Democrats, seeing the high unemployment numbers working against the president as well as their own political survival, continue to push the idea that the unemployed are constantly discriminated against by the private sector and need protection from the government.
“I don’t think the [Obama Jobs] bill created [the unemployed.] I think the Bush tax cuts created it. There’s a class of unemployed people, but obviously the bill did not create the class,” Congressman Danny Davis, Illinois Democrat, told me on Tuesday evening.
Mr. Davis responded to Mr. Gohmert’s remarks about lawsuit the Texas Republican says the unemployed would be able to make as a result of creating another protected class of individuals.
“It’s not lawsuits that I’m looking for. I’m looking for work opportunities, and if it takes lawsuits to get work opportunities, then so be it,” Rep. Davis said. “I’m not sure there would be any lawsuits. I think this is all highly speculative, and if lawsuits are created as a result of jobs being created, you know we’re not talking about things being created. We’re talking about things being protected,” he added.
According to various reports, Congress received a petition with 250,000 names advocating for separate legislation, which is currently backed by a number of Democrats in both chambers, that would legally protect unemployed persons from being discriminated against by a potential employer. The legislation has a number of items included in the Obama jobs bill, which Rep. Gohmert referred to.
Bloomberg News received an e-mail from Michael Eastman, executive director of labor law policy at the Washington-based U.S. Chamber who said that such legislation is not necessary, because discrimination of the unemployed is not widespread.