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"Unemployed Need Not Apply" - Tackling a 'Monster' of a Problem

September 6, 2011

ALBANY, N.Y. - To many, it seems like a "Catch-22"... to get a job, you already have to have a job. Help-wanted ads that say "must be currently employed" would be banned by a bill under consideration in Albany. At the same time, a nationwide petition drive has collected more than 90,000 signatures endorsing an end to the practice.

Petition author Kelly Wiedemer says it puts unemployed people like her in a bind.

"It's a horrible, horrible situation and everybody, really, they don't want any form of welfare, so to speak, with unemployment. We want to work."

New York State Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins has introduced a measure that would not only prohibit employers from posting job ads that discourage the unemployed from applying; it would also make it illegal for employers to deny out-of-work applicants an interview or a position solely because they are jobless.

When she introduced her bill earlier this year, Sen. Stewart-Cousins said with job growth stagnant, it makes no sense to be discriminating against the unemployed.

"When we have unemployment numbers the way they are, to kick someone when they're down, to say that they can't even have a fighting chance because they don't have a job, only exacerbates increasing unemployment numbers."

New Jersey recently passed a similar law; there are more pending in other states, as well as in Congress.

Kelly Wiedemer says the practice of discrimination against the unemployed negates everything a worker has accomplished over a lifetime.

"Without saying so, they said that my education, my experience and my background has no value whatsoever."

Wiedemer says she hopes to collect 200,000 signatures in her drive.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - NY