How Can You Help The Unemployed? Support The Companies That Hire Them
The unemployment rate is holding firm; companies continue their refusal to hire the unemployed. We wonder what more a nation of desperate job seekers can endure. They are terrified and we can all become a member of that class of people, the unemployed.
The broad assumption is that if job candidates are unemployed, they must be damaged goods. Companies think: They wouldn't have been laid off if they had added value to their company; they weren't part of the cream of the crop who survived. Think again, companies are desperate for survival. Banks aren't lending, companies can't expand, government is regulating, and companies are eliminating positions that include highly paid, and eminently qualified individuals that they unfortunately could not afford to retain.
And many candidates have been in the catch-22 of applying for jobs while still employed, when they are fearful of being laid off. Their employer finds their resume on a jobs website and they are let go for lack of dedication.
Many look to Washington to create jobs. The reality is that government can create a business friendly environment for companies to thrive and hire. Now we are talking, and we need to shout it in the communities, streets and businesses: There are unemployed people that need us and we need them. Businesses cannot forget that they need American consumers to buy their products and services.
One monumental and creative idea: Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz's well-publicized call to companies to withhold contributions to political campaigns and support jobs is gaining strength. Spend the money earmarked for political campaigns on employees and hiring issues, he says:
"The only way to break this cycle of fear is to break it. The only way to get the country's economic circulatory system flowing again is to start pumping lifeblood through it. That is why we today issue a second pledge. Our companies are going to hire. We are going to accelerate growth, employment and investment in jobs."
Stunning idea that he now has over 100 companies and over 21,000 of individuals following suit. There are over 3,000 pledges to hire and it's growing by the day. Supporters include AOL, J. Crew, Hasbro, PepsiCo, Whole Foods, J.C. Penney.
I am intrigued and I am watching. We can't forget that we are a nation that is motivated by money. Money talks and money works. There are millions of dollars in political contributions that vanish into thin air. We will be watching to see the promised investment in jobs and people. If the political action committees of unions would follow suit -- with a refund of some of the dues money to their members used for political contributions -- then we are talking about putting money in peoples' pockets.
Here is the connection to the unemployed: You refuse to consider unemployed candidates? You won't get my business and my money.
Find out who is refusing to hire the unemployed and make informed decisions about your future purchasing power. Due to the public scrutiny, many are refraining from the bold posting of "You must be currently employed to apply for this position," which is a clear and deliberate violation of the principles of bona fide occupational qualifications -- qualifications that make sense considering the required competencies of the position.
People are desperate. Should "unemployed" be a protected class of people? Opinions swing wildly about this topic. In fact, many Americans think this is already a protected class. We have never dealt with this problem before, but we haven't had a contemporary problem of this magnitude with jobs either. The unemployment rate is holding at 9.1 percent, 14 million Americans with no movement since April 2011.
Now, it has gotten to such a feverish pitch that there is proposed legislation in Washington, the "Fair Employment Act of 2011," that would add unemployment status to the protected class list of Title VII of the "Civil Rights Act of 1964." Protected under this proposed legislation are individuals actively looking for unemployment during the most recent four-week period and currently available for unemployment.
This bill, introduced and being deliberated in the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, is not expected to gain momentum but the mere fact that this bill needed introduction is a stunner. We never would have fathomed that we would need this type of protection.
If this legislation or some facsimile becomes law, how would the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) handle the tidal wave of new complaints from job candidates who assume that they were rejected, solely based on the proposed new category of a protected class? Job candidates could apply for multiple jobs and file appeals based on the lack of consideration. For employers, the cost of litigation would be unmanageable and considerable. The result? It is likely to be less hiring and more fear of EEOC claims.
Since June 1, it has already been illegal to eliminate unemployed job seekers in New Jersey. There is similar proposed legislation in New York,
An incentive for the unemployed has been introduced as part of President Obama's new jobs initiative. Proposed is a new $8 billion program that contains incentives similar to the little known HIRE Act of 2010. Under this proposed plan, employers would get up to a $4,000 tax credit for hiring unemployed candidates who have been out of work for six or more months. Opponents on both sides of the political coin claim that this incentive does little for the long-term unemployed, and considering the limited success of the HIRE Act, employers likely won't take heed of the benefits.
There are limited statistics about the success of the HIRE Act for comparison. The HIRE Act was discontinued in early 2011.
Can we make a connection between the qualifications of the currently employed and those unemployed due to economic slowdown? Are we not obligated to hire the most qualified candidate based on our selection criteria? Nonetheless, employers are leaving themselves vulnerable to prove no connection between irrelevant qualifications and the protected classes. That is the law.
We already know that it is legal to eliminate a sector of society from consideration, as long as they are not a protected class. But we need to ask, "Is a business ethical that eliminates the very group of people who need to be gainfully employed to turn around this desperate economy and buy their products?"
Employers need to think about their reputation in the marketplace. If they will not consider a whole sector of qualified individuals, their market share may diminish. Word travels fast and if potential employees stop purchasing or doing business with their companies, they will suffer economically. Employers are not untouchable. They may become part of that unfortunate mass called the unemployed. It happens every day.
In a heartbeat, any of us can become that unemployed job candidate. President Harry S. Truman said, "It's a recession when your neighbor loses his job; it's a depression when you lose your own." Any one of us can be plunged into that category, including the hiring managers who won't consider the unemployed. We are all in this together, Americans.
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Wendy Powell is the author of the critically acclaimed management book, Management Experience Acquired (managementexperienceacquired.com). She has been featured on ABC, Fox News, NBC , Strategy Driven, Career Builder, Time Magazine on-line, and Radio America's Business Owner's Toolkit. Former management consultant at the University of Michigan for over 20 years, she writes a business/politics blog column for the Huffington Post, is a guest columnist at Scripps Treasure Coast and Powell is on the business faculty of Palm Beach State College and the University of Phoenix.