Quinn and Stringer tout a measure to punish employers for excluding unemployed job applicants

Stringer and Quinn. (Dana Rubinstein)
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Council speaker Christine Quinn and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, who are both vying for the mayoralty in 2013, teamed up today to introduce legislation intended to prevent discrimination against unemployed job-seekers.

The legislation, sponsored by councilmembers Leroy Comrie and Vincent Gentile, would prohibit city employers from considering unemployment status in a hiring decision and from advertising a job opening with language indicating that unemployed people need not apply.

The practice of requiring job seekers to already have jobs is "shockingly broad in its application," according to the National Employment Law Project's Mitchell Hirsch.

The Council provided examples of ads that would be illegal under the new legislation, including a posting for an executive assistant at Bond Street Group that read, "Candidate should be currently employed on a permanent basis."

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According to one of Hirsch's Law Project colleagues, the practice tends to more heavily impact black and Latino job applicants, who suffer from higher unemployment rates.

People who have been disqualified from jobs on the basis of unemployment could, according to the proposed bill, complain to the city's Commission on Human Rights, which would mete out penalties.

"As the speaker mentioned, my office sounded the alarm last October after we uncovered numerous instances of blatant discrimination against the jobless in online vacancies," said Stringer. "Having a job should not be a requirement for getting a job."

When a reporter said that actual enforcement in this area tended to be tricky, Quinn responded that the first purpose of the legislation was give people who feel they've been discriminated against a place to go to lodge a complaint.

"Two, it's to send a message that this behavior is no longer acceptable," she said. "Which, does that always cause behavior to change overnight? We would love to say it does. But we know it doesn't. But it begins a process."