Discriminating Against the Jobless

April 17, 2013

Can we just start treating everyone the same already?

Should it matter whether someone is black, white, Asian or Hispanic?  Should it matter whether someone is a man or woman, straight or gay?

Of course not.  It’s illegal to discriminate based on race, religion, sex or creed.  So why do we need special laws to protect special interest groups?

The latest group being singled out for special treatment is the unemployed.  New York City just became the fourth jurisdiction to pass a law banning discrimination against the jobless.

So, let’s assume you’re one of those rare employers looking to hire someone in today’s economy.  You have two people to choose from.

One is a chronic overachiever whose resume shows that he works hard and still finds time to serve on non-profit boards.  His references rave about him.  He interviews well.  He is well groomed and has good manners.

The other job applicant spends more time out of work than he does working.  The gaps in his employment record show that he collects unemployment benefits for as long as possible before seeking another job.  He has alcohol on his breath during your interview.

Who would you hire?  You know that if you don’t hire applicant #2, you may be charged with discrimination.  The result will be a fine, a lawsuit and bad publicity.

The probability that applicant #2 will work out is about zero, so you hire no one.

Any wonder why the unemployment rate is still 7.7% (or, really 13.8%, if you count the long-term jobless)?

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