District of Columbia New Law Prohibits Discrimination against the Unemployed

The District of Columbia recently passed the Unemployed Anti-Discrimination Act of 2012. The law prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of an individual’s status as unemployed.

Specifically, the law makes it unlawful for an employer or employment agency to:

  • Fail or refuse to consider for employment, or fail or refuse to hire, an individual as an employee because of the individual’s status as unemployed,
  • Advertise a job vacancy that indicates that an individual is disqualified or will not be considered based on unemployment, or
  • Interfere with or retaliate against an employee or potential employee for exercising any right provided for under the act.

The law does permit employers to set qualifications for a job such as holding a professional or occupational license or having a minimum level of education or experience. Also, the law does not prevent an employer from examining the reasons underlying the applicant’s unemployment status in assessing their ability to perform a job or otherwise making employment decisions about that individual.

New Jersey and Oregon have also passed laws prohibiting unemployment discrimination in advertising and excluding from consideration, or refusing to hire, unemployed applicants because they are unemployed. These laws do not give individuals the right to sue an employer for an alleged violation, but employers can be fined by the state’s labor agency. Many other states have similar legislation currently under consideration.

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