Fair Employment Act of 2011 (H.R. 1113)
WASHINGTON — Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, employers cannot discriminate against applicants based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) introduced legislation on Wednesday that would add unemployed people to that list of protected groups.
The Fair Employment Act of 2011 (H.R. 1113), drafted by Johnson and co-sponsored by Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-Ill.), would amend the Civil Rights Act to make it illegal for employers to refuse to hire or to lower compensation for a person because of employment status. Johnson said he wrote the legislation because he was troubled by the ongoing phenomenon of job ads specifying that a candidate “must be currently employed.”
“I just thought about how unfair that was, to discriminate against people who had lost their jobs due to no fault of their own, who were just victims of corporate downsizing during a tough economy,” he told HuffPost. “And then to be penalized for having that status is very unfair. It reminded me of the days when blacks were told to not apply for jobs, when job ads said ‘No women allowed.’ This really affected me, and I decided that there was something that we could do.”
Johnson said if the bill passes, the burden of proof would be on the plaintiff to show that he or she was discriminated against based on employment status. While this kind of discrimination may be difficult to prove, Johnson said, he thinks the legislation will stop employers from using discriminatory language in their job ads and refusing to look at resumés from jobless applicants.