Employer Explains Why He Won't Hire The Unemployed

discrimination against unemployed hiring

Discrimination against the unemployed is rampant. Some job ads explicitly require applicants to be "currently employed," and Americans who have been out of work for a year or longer report employers rejecting them as soon as that tidbit comes out.

And this is legal in virtually every state. A congressional bill introduced last summer, which would have criminalized it, is languishing. Earlier this year, California was poised to become the first state in the country to ban such discrimination. But Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed it, remarking that it would likely lead to "unnecessary confusion."

As of today, only Washington D.C. has such a law on the books, though Oregon and New Jersey currently ban discriminatory language in job listings.

More: Do You Have To Put Up With Unemployment Discrimination?

So why are employers averse to hiring the jobless? AOL Jobs called about a half dozen employers who took out ads that explicitly stated current employment was required, but only one would agree to an interview: Alex Comana, who runs the La Mesa, Calif.-based property management and real estate firm, The Comana Company. He posted a job ad for an apartment complex manager earlier this year specifying that only the currently employed need apply.

In an interview with AOL Jobs, he was refreshingly candid. He said his primary reason for only considering employed applicants was that he was trying to fill an unusual job -- one that came with free rent, instead of pay. As a result, he said, he wanted somebody who is currently employed so that the worker would "be able to put food on the table."

To be sure, there are plenty of jobless workers who would welcome a gig that came with free housing; in fact he says he received applications from jobless workers -- which he wouldn't consider. In an interview, he freely acknowledged that there were other reasons why he -- and many other employers -- preferred not to hire the unemployed.

Here are the top reasons he gave:

1. People who have a job are proven to be valuable.

"If someone is still currently employed, it tells me they're skilled enough, valuable enough to still be employed, to still have a job," explains Comana. (He is not alone in this thinking. Studies have found that hiring managers -- when presented with identical resumes, except that one candidate was employed and the other not -- rate the employed applicant as more competent.)

More: 7 Signs Of Discrimination Against Veterans At Work

2. You can't be sure why the unemployed lost their jobs.

"You have to definitely investigate their situation," Comana says about unemployed applicants, to find out whether they lost their job because of downsizing or poor performance. "There could be a very well qualified individual who was just downsized out of the job. And a person who was downsized is more valuable than someone who lost their job because of poor performance."

3. The employed will adjust quicker to a new job.

"Getting them into the daily routine," Comana says, is another potential issue in hiring the unemployed. "It would be less burdensome to try to acclimate the [already-employed] employee into their required work environment," he says, because they're used to the 9-to-5 grind. As an example, he says many of the unemployed applicants for the job he posted didn't follow the directions, like writing their cover letter in both English and Spanish.

"When you're out of the job market I think you kind of forget how to follow directions, or just don't really pay attention to what's being requested," he says. "You become a little rusty."

More: Fat And Unemployed: Is There A Connection?

4. An employed candidate has fresher job skills.

"Employers are looking to improve their bottom line," says Comana, and they can do that "by bringing someone on board you don't have to spend time on training, or time on acclimating them. It comes down to how much does this corporation make. [Employers] need to limit their expenses."

5. I have to watch the bottom line.

Comana recognizes that passing over candidates because of their employment status puts the jobless in a catch-22 -- they can't get a job because they don't have one. "I can see the other side of the coin," he says. "How can this person who, again, could be a talented individual, how can they be hired at this company if one of the requirements is that they are currently employed? They can't."

But on the other side, he says, employers need to hire individuals they can be sure will help the company grow. "An employer is looking at the bottom line and wondering if this person is going to work hard, because they've been out of the market for so long," he explains. "It's tough on both ends."

Have you been turned down for a job because you're unemployed, or have you turned down job applicants because they were jobless? Share your experiences in the comments section.

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These answers were idiotic. It's interesting that companies were smart enough to know not to go on record with these irrational assumptions, but not smart enough to not think this way. Plenty of people who add no value occupy jobs for years due to lazy management, fear of being the "bad guy" to get rid of this person who's been here even though they haven't contributed much. You really can't be sure of why someone has lot their job, you also can't be sure that people who are looking aren't about to lose theirs. This is just discrimination, no two ways about it. The employed will not adjust quicker to a new routine--they've been following a different one up until recently. Someone who hasn't had work routine is much less likely to think that their old routine is superior to yours or try to impose it on the new job. Is "fresher skills" even a thing? There are very few skills being utilized in the workplace that people don't utilize in daily life. This is not 1950! And you think someone who has been out of work for a long time (and conceivably not getting income) isn't going to work hard. Bulls--t.

October 06 2015 at 11:47 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

What an asinine way of thinking. This, from employers who are presumably intelligent.These employers are not intelligent. They are arrogant and pompous.

I worked for a company for 19 years. During my tenure I consistently received top-tier raises, which is certainly indicative of outstanding performance. My company merged, and I was laid off. I spent the next year as a full-time dad to my two high school son's who were preparing for college. After my oldest went off to college (he is, by the way, pursuing his master's degree) I decided to go back to work. I landed a job as accounting manager with an in-home care company. Company revenues begin to shrink, and I was laid off. I worked a few temp jobs through an agency before landing a full-time permanent gig with a high end restaurant chain. A slowing economy caused diners to shy away from high-end dining establishments. After about a year I was laid off again. Once again I took on a few temp. assignments before landing another well-paying permanent gig as a full-charge bookkeeper for a wine bottle distributor. This job lasted for approximately 4 months. The departure was mutual. My direct supervisor was an absolute bullying tyrant, and I refused to tolerate such behavior. So I left. I am now unemployed, and have been for over a year. I am experiencing this same type of discrimination. My last two prospects were all ready to schedule interviews after receiving my resume. The last question each of them asked me was whether or not I was employed. I said no. I never heard from them again.

This type of thinking by employers is not intelligent, It's arrogant! To assume that the unemployed are lazy is pompous and presumptuous. Do these people know how much effort it takes to look for work? It is a job all by itself. Are they also not aware of the many layoff announcements that are reported in the media on an almost daily basis? These people are disgusting.

I have NEVER! been let go from a job because of poor performance NEVER! In fact, any employer that I've ever had will tell you that I would happily work off the clock if that was what was needed.

My only hope is that these same employers will someday receive a pink slip, and then they get told that they are not employable because they are unemployed. That would be delicious.

June 25 2015 at 12:29 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
HaHa HoHo


these corporations get kick backs for hiring non citizens over u.s. citizens. I know this for a fact b/c I was involved in it.

listen folks go sell drugs, get an ebay store, run untaxed cigarettes...whatever you have to do b/c the game has changed since 2007 and these companies are scared to death the US dollar is gonna sink to the bottom of the ocean. (china is gonna be running the financial world within the next 12-18 months)

so your pensions, your 457's and 401k's are gonna go POOF! gone like you never got them in the first place.

don't believe me? go ask the camden nj cops about their pension, or any municipal workers in detroit.. go ask numerous former owners of mom and pop shops that stood for 40 years.

obamacare was just a way to kill of the small business owner and make everything walmart (broad statement but to sum it up quick)

they are running a rigged table and all you can do is grab as much as you can before the fall.

p.s. invest in gold gold gold (not silver it's garbage and they are gonna devalue it once the dollar crashes)

soon your. 1.00 dollar bill that was worth 76 cents will be worth about 40-55 cents. it's gonna get ugly america. don't worry about jobs and bosses...worry about a gun and getting yours

June 05 2015 at 10:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

As if there were another reason necessary to leave California. Re-electing this idiotic dinosaur Jerry Brown who I remember laughing at back in the late 70's early 80's for braying on about water while aerospace was leaving enough of a vacuum behind it on the way out of the state that it was destroying other industries with its jet wash. And he's STILL BRAYING about water now while his state has disgusting unemployment rates and a ridiculously overblown cost of living and when a bill comes up that prevents BLATANT and IDIOTIC discrimination in hiring this dumdum VETOES IT?!

This state deserves itself.

April 15 2015 at 9:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Of course the reality of what these policies actually do to the workforce never comes into play for many of these employers.

If people do not have job, no one buys goods and services. If no one buys goods and services, no employer has money to reach the bottom line they were trying to protect by discriminating against the unemployed.

The employer has to let go his current employees and eventually he has to close down his business. He himself ends up poor and having to supplement his income all-the-while battling the myriad of problems that affect the poor, unemployed and homeless he originally looked down upon.

That does not seem like a sound business plan.

November 20 2014 at 10:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Daniel Embody

The problem with their logic is that 80% of the world's top performers were unemployed or fired at one point in their careers. To eliminate these people would be to eliminate 80% of the world's top performers. Not a very smart business move.

October 16 2014 at 2:45 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

My name is Alex Comana and I'm the gentleman who was interviewed for this article. Since this article was written almost 2 years ago I have received many communications from individuals expressing their viewpoints. Although most were a tirade of insults, most likely based on a foundation of firsthand unemployment, there were a handful of intelligible communications presenting scenarios of how persons could find themselves in an unemployment line simply due to circumstances beyond their control. The presentation of these scenarios have caused me to realize the error of my thinking. I now understand there are many valuable unemployed individuals, perhaps even superior to some employed individuals, who deserve an equal opportunity to apply for any opening within our company and any other company for that matter. Thank you to those individuals who shared an intellectual perspective on the subject. Your efforts have allowed me to grow as a person and as an employer.
Alex Comana

September 19 2014 at 1:37 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to alex_comana's comment
Alex Desilets

I'm happy to here this. I myself am an unemployed new college grad with honors who's applied for 75 jobs in the last 43 days. With so many barriers to entry, mostly employers asking for 5 years of experience, it can sometimes feel like the world is stacked against you. Reading an article like this is extremely disheartening, but it's good to see that someone with the power to affect change, at least in their own company, has had a change of heart.

June 23 2015 at 12:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It's good that you were able to see the error of your ways, and--despite calling your responses idiotic--I will commend your honesty. That's the thinking and most companies are too chicken to admit that these types of random assumptions drive their real, concrete businsess decisions--even though they do! I hope someone unemployed has benefitted by becoming employed due to your change of heart.

October 06 2015 at 11:52 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Lol! And this is what most supposedly intelligent employers really think. There is currently no research to support such stupidity. I made a conscious decision to stay out of the traditional workforce because I saw an opportunity to get my graduate and post graduate degree. During this time I did assitantships, volunteer work and free skill building work in the career I wanted to go into. I also stayed out a bit longer to home-school my daughter which actually made me smarter. However, when a company only relies on computers, recruiters and dumb trends to tell them if someone is "working" or not they miss out on the cream of the crop employees. During this time I have taken computer classes to keep current with technology and I am fabulous for work, management and training others. I think the joke is on the employers that think they are so smart though. Myself and others like me have found power in low level jobs where we move up quickly and share our talents with the underdogs. Don't waste your time trying to prove yourselves. Go out and look for small private companies who really want awesome employees, who want to really take the time to get the best and not just some dud who is good with keywords and faking through the system. The term "unemployed" doesn't even mean to these folk what you think it means. To them anything other than a traditional job is unemployed to them. So if you have been self employed you are unemployed. They have very narrow ways of seeking qualified applicants which is why they usually end up with high turnovers.

June 29 2014 at 2:51 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
James Phillips

this is terrible, how can any competent employer themselves wonder how an employed person got their job?! it's a no brainer. Companies with this mind set are not WORTH working for and if guns like that are pointed then it creates an employer culture, either become an employer or sink which we don't have the funding to do so it's really not helpful and a no brainer to suggest unemployed are "useless" which is absolutely balderdash and unexplainable, the employed people are unlikely to move or if they are it means that there was a time when employers took on unemployed people, gave them a bit of TLC and made them who they are today and so to change that attitude locks out unemployed people and employed people prosper while the poor get poorer, it has to change, it's a redundant mentality, how are unemployed suppose to get anywhere in life? even more annoying that the government panders to employers i even went to a "wage incentive" group that promised to PAY employers to employ people for 6 months, it's not permanent but how sick and twisted is that, we have a working culture that rules entirely in employers favour and makes them fat, immobile kings and queens who splutter weak words and the lower ranks suffer and slave away, what an awful world we live in where even honest, genuine people cant get anywhere because we unemployed are not allowed to get employed, it's mind numbingly stupid, ignorant, arrogant, cruel and selfish

May 04 2014 at 7:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

It is very annoying to have to deal with bullshit job hiring ads. It gives a bad impression. Employers constantly job advertise and just ignore all applicants, then continue to job advertise endlessly. I think employers, managers, supervisors, team leads are trying to scare their existing staff to not stand up for themselves or they are replaceable with plenty of applicants. They ignore all local job applicants and then claim they can't find any citizens to work. They then use that excuse to go to the national government to open wide the immigration doors to import more cheap foreign slave workers because the employers don't want to pay.

Read the people's comments on www.ratemyemployer.ca, www.topix.com (Victoria, BC, Canada), www.yelp.com, www.thedirty.com, Yahoo Answers, BBB, others. You will understand the corruption game that is being played by governments, companies, agencies. Everyone is only useless as a money milking cow.

February 27 2014 at 7:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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