NEW YORK — New York City lawmakers passed the nation’s most far-reaching measure Wednesday to protect out-of-work job applicants from discrimination, allowing job-seekers to sue if they believe they have been turned away because they’re unemployed.
City Council members overrode a mayoral veto of the measure, making the city the fourth place in the country with some form of legislation against discriminating against unemployed job-seekers. The new law takes effect in three months.
While the other measures ban help-wanted ads that say applicants must be employed, the New York City law goes further by letting rejected applicants take employers to court and get damages.
“We cannot and will not allow New Yorkers who are qualified and ready to work and looking to work to have the door of opportunity slammed in their faces,” City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said.
Unemployment-discrimination laws have been floated around the country in recent years. President Barack Obama proposed one in 2011, and New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington, D.C., have passed them. New Jersey, which enacted the first such measure in 2011, has cited at least one company for an ad that excluded jobless applicants, its state Labor Department says.
Unemployed job-hunters and their advocates say it’s illogical and unfair to be required to have a job to get a job, particularly after years of high unemployment and layoffs. Nationally, more than 1 in 3 unemployed workers has been looking for at least six months, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics says.
But businesses and Mayor Michael Bloomberg predict the unemployment-discrimination measure will lead to baseless lawsuits from disgruntled applicants. They say lawmakers shouldn’t try to dictate how hiring choices get made, and Bloomberg has suggested it may well be reasonable to take someone’s joblessness into account.