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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Claire Gordon

Staff Writer

Claire Gordon has contributed to Slate's DoubleX, the Huffington Post, and the book Prisons: Current Controversies. While an undergraduate at Yale University and a research fellow at Yale graduate school, she spoke on panels at Yale and Cornell, and reported from Cairo, Tokyo, and Berlin.

Follow Claire on Twitter. Email Claire at claire.gordon@teamaol.com. Add Claire to your Google+ circles.

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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

This is actually unemployment and race discrimination because blacks are the most unemployed and for longest periods of time. So to you white folks who scream to us niggs just get a job stop being a thug and selling drugs just to survive get off welfare etc etc...etc etc etc...You tell me how by volunteering internships working for free ohh so back to being a slave...I know several nonblk ppl who were out of work for years and by choice because thy just didn't want to wrk and when thy go looking for jobs thy get jobs like nothing while blk ppl remain jobless. My 2 AAS degrees from CC just came in the mail and I ripped them both up and trashed them because they are no benefit to me. since 2007 I became a stay @ home father if I wld have known I wld never get a job again regardless of advancements in education my wife's job priorities for her job and random schedule at walmart would not have mattered to me. im blk my wife is Mexican and before 2007 I was the bread winner and working for years while she stay home half the years before our kids until I got fired we both applied to walmart and thy called her 3yrs of no employment but not me and she been holding it down ever since and is now a manager. I love my wife to death but to keep it real she's dum AF she refuses to help my 4th grade son with his homework when its math because its to hard ( no lie) she says and does dum spit on the daily and she the smartest one in her area at work. And among other department managers. Higher management is even more dum than she is true story some manager marked down 55" 1080p TV's for $50 by mistake suppose to be $500 they sold out in 30 min. (no blk Friday) and still keep his job after that. But those ppl are the better choice because they are already working please GTFOH total FBS...This bs makes me wanna kill myself because what hope is there for me but to now depend on my wife forever. meanwhile Obama 's focus is on some F'n illegal immigrants to be legal and work...OMG please help me...

February 14 2014 at 3:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Toki Sun

Oh, this is so sad to keep reading and hearing. Once upon a time you can apply and work the same week. Now it seems like the war on the unemployed. The real great asset of the workforce exchange system where businesses have turn their backs on. The unemployed applicant who is responding to your job ad is saying "they want to work for you" and have skills to back it up. They are not whining or making excuses, they want to work. The missing link to bringing back the economy is the "unemployed". Yes, it's frustrating and depressing to keep being rejected because I am NOT currently employed. It's also a fallacy to assume that because you've been out of work too long is lazy or not doing enough to get a job, or that your skills are invaluable, that's incorrect. Unemployment benefits is their right to have before they lost their job, they contributed into that system. Of course they want a job to help pay the bills, that's their right. To be criticized/penalized about receiving unemployments through no fault of their own for being on it, shuts them out of opportunities they qualify for is wrong. The same applicants who are currently employed, employers claim are more valuable are the same ones that will move on to a better paying job anyway, give them 3 years or less and watch. Even the staffing agencies are being picky about hiring people out of work too long because they have to respond to the needs of their clients. Their clients dictate you being able to be hired on a good assignment. It's an employer market and this shakedown has benefited many businesses to lower salary, benefits with higher skill sets--Wow! How can someone with no skills and experience qualify over someone who is unemployed with skills and experience? And the person who is currently employed looking for a better job, will require more money and probably a better boss. A unemployed person with skills and experience is looking for a job with great benefits, and don't care if they a have better boss--- want and need to work. How is that not valuable? A person with a felony doesn't fit into the problems that happening because the employer who is hiring them may not require a background check and it's poor wages involved -- how can expect a person to reenter into society and change their life make it on poor wages. Of course they will hire a felony. A felony background wouldn't traditionally get the same job with great benefits and salary because most companies require "must pass a background check" and no offense depending on the states--that's 85% or more of the population. No job is guaranteed today because of greed, even if you have one will someday face the issues like discussed on this board, layoff, shutdown, job elimination, force into retirement discrimination. All these depressing issues faced with getting back to work, makes me realize I don't want to be at the mercy of another employer again. Self-employment one way or another is the key.

February 14 2014 at 1:22 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

On the long term unemployed subject, I think there is plenty to discuss about personal character, God, politics, blame, resulting depression, lashing out at HR or others and the list goes on. There is no doubt that some people know and fear failure to get a job after a termination and the level of desperation to get a new job is different among us all. As the unemployment years pass, fear increases and faith (in God and yourself) decreases. I for one, have 8 kids from ages 25 down to 10. (autism and down syndrome too). I am 51. I have other income. My situation goes from desperate one month to not-so-desperate the next. Mostly though, employers do not know, nor can they predict "good employee character'' AND they don't know you the way you know you, right? HR establishes employee standards and there is nothing you can do about it. As a matter of fact; if you don't like the way a hiring manager acts towards you, that job would be bad anyway AND if they have poor or abusive methods of hiring, if you get the job, well, no complaints then, right? We all have personal situations and some are worse than mine, others not so much. It's all a matter of how well you handle the stress of ANY situation. If not for my other income, I would work a minimum wage job of whatever I can. Also remember, security jobs are mostly unskilled as are restaurant jobs and grocery and retail jobs. The larger the city, the more opportunity there is. its all a matter of what you're willing to do for money. Conditions of (un)employment such as location, experience, industry, your personal character, who you know, family name or associations, handicaps and above all, your level of motivation to get out and ask for a job will make ALL the difference. I speak the truth here. All other complaints, excuses and limits to your job search mean nothing. I babysit my special needs kids, if not me, then my wife. My lack of motivation to get out and get another job sits on my availability. If you have a Masters degree ( or other) and do not have a job in that field, you must travel and write letters to get one. There is no other way in a country such as ours where you can move around without permission!

January 07 2014 at 7:20 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Twenty years work experience and a master's degree but unemployed with a ruined by arthritis. Only the jails and prisons will hire such a one and that's as an inmate after being convicted of homelessness which goes by a lot of different legal names like vagrancy and whatnot. Meat to be warehoused because despite their credentials and past work experience, one look at the hand and unemployment and no employer will ever hire them. After they lose everything, the taxpayers hire them by keeping them in county jails for vagrancy.

November 19 2013 at 6:45 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Personally, I am glad that I have an opportunity to speak, if that is what you would choose to call this exactly. I think that all of this talk is confusing and that the obvious solution to this problem and others is to not expect anything. For those of us who know better the dysfunction in attempting to earn an honest living in this newly ordered economy is much more about who you know, what credentials you have, and what type of references you can present to a potential employer (in quotations). Facts are, in some states like NY, potential job seekers and working tax payers have litle to absolutely no protection or insurance that any employeer has to even grant you an interview yet alone a secure job.

Employers these days do not technechally, have, to do anything for it's employees or anyone else as far as it hiring policies, employments requirements, or screening process that they do not want to do. You'd be amazed to find out exactly how much stuff people just assume are regular practice involving employment that just isn't the way things are in actuality. Hence unless you've retained a very good lawyer, a contract, or have a union job you really do not have any type of legal rights at all. You'd be shocked. Even after you've been hired an employer isn't legally obligated to do anything for you except pay you for your services rendered. Thats about it. Anything else would be hearsay.

Thus discrimination is merely 8 consonants and 6 vowels. In the eyes of the law, posession, is 9/10ths. Does that mean that enforcement is 1% or less in those same eyes? I would say: absolutely! Just like everything else, white collar crime, is at an all time high. You cannot have a corrupt capitolistic system set in place if you were intending to be fair. Do the math. Pay attention. Big business is going to do whatever it pleases as long as it pleases everyone else to know that you've been misinformed. Fin.

July 24 2013 at 9:42 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Sharon Bettis

This article made me so mad, I could have spit nails. I worked for a very small minority federal consulting business who unbeknownst to me had only one contract. The owner of the company was too busy having fun and playing with his "flavor of the week" to take the business seriously. This man took great pleasure in calling a "All Hands On Deck" meeting to let the administrative staff know that he would be cutting their work hours in half. To have to sit there and watch grown women who had just started working, begging and crying to keep their jobs was cruel and heartless. To add insult to injury, to prove themselves, he would have them do a presentation on the company's history. It was nothing to see people leave out of building never to be seen again. Once he decided he had done enough damage, these people would come back at a reduced hourly wage and hours.

I was this person's EA and wrote/edited every piece of correspondence that went out of the office. I supervised a staff of six and the employees were more inclined to come to me than they were to seek advice from him. When he decided to let me go by reducing my salary to minimum wage and transferring me to an office an hour and half drive from my home, I told him and the HR Director thanks but no thanks. By taking this job, I had already taken a 20K cut in pay but I rationalized that it was 5 minutes from my home so I would be saving gas and parking fees. (I live in Washington, DC)

Shortly afterwards my one and only aunt was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and I was able, with my husband's blessing to take care of her until her death just a couple months later. A year later her brother who had no one and was in a nursing home passed. I was the executor of his estate and his care and burial fell on my shoulders. I have sent so many resumes out that I have had to empty the work folders in my e-mail accounts. I turned 60 just a couple of days ago and the knowledge, skills and abilities that I have don't mean a thing to employers. They want someone young but what they don't know, the young person is there but for a little while and then as soon as the economy turns around, they will leave and find the job of their dreams. I want to work and I am good at what I do. For someone to dismiss a qualified applicant because they are unemployed is disgraceful and so unfair to those of us that are doing everything we can to find employment.

July 19 2013 at 9:25 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

I think most Employers look at some one who sit around for a year or two drawing unemployment as not willing to work unless they were offered a job comparable to the job they lost. They would rather hire someone who may have lost one job but went out and worked at any job as long as it brought in money to pay the bills instead of taking the tax money of the people who were still working. I worked 70 hrs a week at three part time jobs for over 2 years until I got a decent paying job. Did those three jobs equal the 96K I was making before, no but they did save the house, both cars, paid the bills (most times). RV had to go but saved bass boat. The 100+K job I have now was a direct result of working my butt off to keep afloat and that was why I was hired over some who had more experience then I had but had sit on their butts drawing tax payers dollars for 2-4 years until applying for same job. Was it rough, damn right, was it worth it damn right!

July 19 2013 at 2:57 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

i see that most of the people with a problem here do not own their own company - i am a successful business owner and many times i have given the benefit of the doubt to people who pretty much cannot keep a job or who live on government subsidies for extended periods of time. Here are just a few examples of the nightmares- I show up at the public venue and two of the women have their kids at the job,6 kids between them. When i let them know this was not acceptable they yelled at me. Another woman not able to keep work showed up at a public job smelling very bad - come to find out one of her dogs regularly pees on her clothes. Two others stole $1200 dollars while quoting scripture. This is a very small amount of examples. The people writing here excluded - many times when someone does not have a stable work history there is a reason

July 19 2013 at 2:40 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to sharonfields123's comment

I have been on both sides of this fence. I used to have my own business, and yes some the people I hired or interviewed were unemployed for good reason. I had let been let go from my previous job the week before Xmas. I was out of work for two months. I am working full time at one job that is over 30 minutes away and working part time (when I can get the hours) at a big box store. I don't qualify for any help and can't get any either. It wasn't my entirely my fault I was let go. And the way things are going at my full time job, I may be let go from there as well. I am a good, loyal and strong worker. I show up on time and don't call out sick. I just lost my husband and am having a hard time with his death. It's not fair, and I know that life isn't fair; but I really want to be able to have a job.

July 21 2013 at 2:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Phillip Ramirez

Asinine thinking. That's all it is. I'm a professional actor (yes, I pay my bills with acting), and when the acting slowed down, I started looking at shifting back to the 9-to-5 grind. My skill set...?

I worked for 1-1/2 years as iOS tech support (iPhones/iPad). I was put on the leader track within two months of starting. I've worked with both the Windows and Mac OS'. As an actor, I've been hired to represent MasterCard, Disney, McGraw Hill, NCL... among many, many other companies. I'm an above-average trainer and public speaker. I'm college-educated, and up-to-date on the most current technologies.

Guess what? I can't even get email responses to my job inquiries. I've adapted and adjusted my résumé countless times to match the "Flavor Of The Month" styles that recruiters look for. Nothing. I've contacted employment assistance in my home state to seek funded training for mobile applications... Only to be told "There isn't a demand for that type of job."

So again... asinine thinking. Employers like Mr. Comana need to realize that perhaps those they deem "chronically unemployed" may have a wealth and diversity of skills and experience that their business can benefit from. Instead, they exhibit the same small-minded thinking that contributes to the waning economic conditions in the US.

July 19 2013 at 9:50 AM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

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