Last week during the State of the Union, President Obama announced a new national push to stop long-term unemployment discrimination, a cause championed here in Massachusetts by State Sen. Mike Barrett (D-Lexington). While Obama said he’s working with big companies to fix their hiring practices, Barrett’s bill would bar unemployment discrimination statewide.
“Just like the rest of the country, Massachusetts residents who’ve been out of work for a while are struggling to find jobs,” said Barrett, Vice Chair of the Committee on Labor and Workforce Development. “The bill I’ve filed would end explicit discrimination, as well as more subtle verbal cues that limit job openings to those already employed.”
Barrett’s proposal makes it illegal for employers to post an advertisement saying unemployed applicants will not be considered, as well as prevents companies from refusing to look at a jobseeker because he or she is unemployed. It also gives the Attorney General the power to investigate cases.
Long-term unemployment is a systemic problem. During 2012 Massachusetts had an average of 92,000 people who were unemployed for six months or longer.
Barrett also noted a recent study done at Northeastern University in which 4,800 fictitious resumes were sent out for 600 job openings nationwide. Jobseekers recently unemployed but without relevant experience got calls nine percent of the time, while those unemployed for a long period but with relevant experience got calls only three percent of the time.
On the national front, President Obama met last week with some of the country’s largest businesses -- such as Walmart, Apple and GM -- to change their hiring practices. So far 300 businesses have signed on.
Barrett said that since comprehensive national legislation isn’t likely to pass anytime soon, Massachusetts should act. “Being unemployed shouldn’t make you unemployable.”