unemployed job applicant in a job interview

Discrimination in Hiring Unemployed Job Applicants

By Thomas McKinney

Sometimes, for a variety of reasons, a person will experience a gap in employment. Being unemployed and looking for a job can be a stressful situation. The last thing you need in your search for gainful employment is to worry about the role your current unemployment could impact your chances of being hired. Unfortunately, employers have been known to look unfavorably upon hiring unemployed job applicants. Over the years, New Jersey has taken steps to put laws in place that can provide a safeguard against hiring policies and practices that could create roadblocks for unemployed individuals trying to get hired.

Does New Jersey Protect Job Applicants with Employment Gaps? 

There are some states that have taken strong strides to protect unemployed applicants from being discriminated against due to their unemployed status. This form of discrimination has not received as much attention as other forms of discrimination against protected classes. For instance, the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination (LAD) prohibits hiring discrimination based on protected classes such as race, sex, religion, age, and more.

The longer the gap in employment an individual is experiencing, the more difficult it can be for them to find a job. Despite an individual’s qualifications, an employment gap can be difficult to overcome when searching for employment. Of course, some hiring managers will look at an employment gap with more understanding than others. Some may be open to hearing an applicant’s reasons for the gap which may include things like the economy. Other hiring managers may maintain that the applicant would have already found a job if they were really a promising candidate.

While New Jersey law does not extend as much protection against unemployment discrimination as other state’s, they do offer some protections. For instance, in 2011, the New Jersey legislature enacted a law that prohibits employers from advertising a job opening limited to those who are currently employed. Employers are further prohibited from not considering applications received from those who are not currently employed. This law, however, does not prohibit employers from actually making adverse hiring decisions based on the employment status of an applicant.

It is worth noting, however, that while discrimination based on employment status is not explicitly protected by New Jersey law, other anti-discrimination laws could come into play in certain contexts. For instance, an employer’s policy of failing to hire unemployed applicants could have disproportionate impacts on certain protected classes. This type of hiring policy could disproportionately impact older applicants, for example. This, in turn, may be seen as a violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination. It could also have implications regarding the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) which prohibits age-based discrimination in the workplace.

Employment Law Attorneys

If you think you have not been hired due to your employment status, you may have a case for employment discrimination. Talk to the team at Castronovo & McKinney about your options. Contact us today.

About the Author
Tom McKinney is an experienced NJ Employment Lawyer in all major areas of labor and employment law, including discrimination, harassment, overtime violations, wage and hour claims, sexual harassment, wrongful discharge, Title VII, ADA, ADEA, FMLA, LAD, FLSA, and all other employment law claims. Tom is admitted to practice in the States of New Jersey and New York, United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York, Southern District of New York, District of New Jersey, and United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. Prior to forming the firm, Tom practiced at Gibbons P.C. in Newark, NJ. If you have any questions regarding this article, contact Tom here today.