Should you require your job candidates to be “currently employed”?

This is a very hot topic right now that is causing lots of debate. Some companies are advertising that candidates must be “currently employed” or only very recently unemployed, as a qualification to apply for open positions.

Some of these companies believe that the best employees are still working; that companies that initiated layoffs only laid off their lowest performers. Other ideas are that people who have been out of work for very long have gotten used to not working, so will have a difficult transition back into the workplace, or for those chronically unemployed, their skills are no longer current (6 months unemployment seems to be a common benchmark in these ads). Lastly, it is used as a way to limit the volume of applicants for each position.

The EEOC conducted a hearing earlier this year to examine this issue, and employee advocacy groups are starting to create a lot of negative press about this practice. Their argument is that with the very high levels of layoffs that have occurred, lots of very well qualified, hard working people have been laid off, and that last thing we need to be doing is preventing the unemployed from ever getting back into the labor force. In addition, while such a practice isn’t directly illegal, it’s argued that since it can disproportionately exclude people in protected classes it is discriminatory.

If you already include such language in your recruitment ads, or quietly apply this requirement to your screening of candidates, you should be aware of the controversy surrounding the practice. In addition, you need to have a plan for adequately defending yourself against discrimination complaints based on disproportionately impacting protected candidates. If you cannot develop that, then you need to ask yourself if it’s a good practice for your company.

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