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Chicago alderman wants ban on discrimination against jobless

Job MarketUnemployment and LayoffsHistoryDiscrimination

A freshman Chicago alderman concerned about the potential for a new class of permanently unemployed workers wants to ban the rejection of job applicants because of bad credit histories or gaps in employment.

The goal, said Ald. Ameya Pawar, 47th, is to prevent employers from discriminating against people who have hit hard times in the current economy.

“If you’ve been out of work for on average 27 weeks or more, and now employers are saying they are only going to look at people who are employed, you are creating a permanent class of unemployable people, and that’s unacceptable,” Pawar said.

Pawar, noting that some online job postings state “unemployed need not apply,” wants to amend the city’s Human Rights Ordinance. All but nine of the 50 City Council members signed off on his proposal this week.

The change would add “credit history” and “gap in employment history” to the many categories against which employment discrimination is banned. Other categories include race, color, sex, age, religion, disability and sexual orientation.

Pawar said he understands that in some cases there are legitimate reasons to consider credit history. He said he’s willing to consider changes to his proposal to take that into account.

The state last year enacted a prohibition on considering credit histories in employment decisions except in certain circumstances, such as when an employee works at a bank, handles financial instruments or large amounts of cash, works in law enforcement, has access to confidential information, is a government employee or collects debts.

Ald. Joe Moore, 49th, chairman of the Human Relations Committee, said the goal is to “mirror” the state, so folks who believe they have faced discrimination can go to the city’s Human Rights Commission for relief, which can be less complicated and expensive than going to the courts for relief as required under state statute.

New Jersey has banned discrimination based on current unemployment, and legislation has been introduced in Congress to block employers from discriminating against out-of-work applicants.

“You’ve got 11 percent unemployment in the city of Chicago,” Pawar said. “We’re talking about creating jobs, but if we can’t employ the people who are unemployed, what’s the point of doing that. . . . . “We’re not trying to jam more regulations down businesses throats. We’re just saying, ‘Be good people.’ "

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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