I’ve written or rewritten several resumes for family and friends, and one thing I still tell everyone is a tip I got from a recruiter: “Try not to have any gaps in your work history. It’s better to be self-employed or work gigs than be unemployed,” she said. So, do we now need to offer protections to the unemployed? And how tricky is it to navigate balancing self-employment or having gig work with collecting unemployment benefits (if you’re even eligible)?
When I first heard about employers who discriminate against persons who were unemployed for longer than six months I was a little taken aback. When I heard this was still going on in an economy where jobs are still not plentiful, I was shocked.
We cringe when we look back on our history when signs indicating “Irish need not apply” or “blacks need not apply” were commonplace. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of ’64 created protected classes and put a stop to such discrimination.
But the unemployed are not considered a “protected class.” Discrimination against the unemployed in hiring is not considered unlawful in most states. Only New York, New Jersey, Oregon and Washington, DC have passed legislation to protect job aspirants with gaps in their resumes. Sixteen states have considered similar legislation and have rejected it in the past!
So the only fear an employer has when prohibiting “currently unemployed people” from applying, is the possibility that the applicant may be protected under the Civil Rights Act. Of course, not many job aspirants can even afford to litigate alone against such discrimination.
For every company that blatantly states that it’s not willing to consider unemployed applicants, there are dozens who quietly discard resumes from those who are not currently working.
When faced with this prejudice, people who are motivated to find and keep work are being forced to misrepresent facts and lie about being employed elsewhere, find a quick client or gig work or remain unemployed.
Looking back, economic conditions resulted in the most experienced (and highly compensated) workers being the first to be terminated. Of course, these individuals face the greatest employment challenges as companies are now ramping up by replacing these individuals with less experienced workers at lower salaries and, as we know, contingent workers.
In many cases, these unemployed workers had previously demonstrated their reliability through decades-long careers with no breaks in service. Yet now, their reliability and motivation is called into question.
Against this background, several staffing firms have adopted a set of best practices to remove barriers against hiring long-term unemployed persons. Contingent work or gigs offers the long-term unemployed an opportunity to re-enter the job market, and simultaneously allows them to test the waters when working at a job that requires them to undergo training or gain new skills to deliver to expectations. They may also prove themselves and get absorbed into a permanent position.
With the staffing firm’s assistance, individuals can receive the training and on the job experience needed to undertake new and challenging jobs, creating a win-win for companies seeking those skills and workers looking for jobs.
Do you think you’ve been passed over for a job due to long periods of unemployment? What have you done to compensate?
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