Obama wants jobless to sue

Barack Obama (AFP Photo / Robyn Beck)
The millions of unemployed Americans might be able to file discrimination suits against would-be employers under a provision in President Barack Obama’s American Jobs Act.

Most unemployed Americans remains jobless for an average of 40 weeks as of late, the longest duration since the Eisenhower administration. If the current president’s proposed plan is approved, however, those that feel that they are discriminated against for their employment status can take legal action.

The exact wording of the proposal suggests that should a business with 15 or more employees neglect to hire an applicant on basis of “the individual’s status as unemployed,” it would be deemed “an unlawful employment practice” under the American Jobs Act. Should rejected applicants chose to seek legal action, they are capable of suing in the same way that applicants can currently peruse claims for discrimination based on race, sex and religion.

Under the provision, jobs-seeking applicants and employment agencies would be barred from advertising positions in which they specifically suggest that the unemployed aren’t eligible for hire. Earlier in 2011, New Jersey approved a legislation that outlawed the same practices in the Garden State. That law is the first state bill of its kind to pass. Obama’s proposal is unique, however, in that it allows workers to file claims for damages if they feel that they would wrongly discriminated against based on job status.

Texas Representative Louie Gohmert, a Republican, tells The New York Times that it could change the whole way applicant go about the job process. "If you're unemployed and you go to apply for a job, and you're not hired for that job, see a lawyer. You may be able to file a claim because you got discriminated against because you were unemployed,” says Gohmert.

Some say that the legislation could be a great step in helping lower the unemployment level, but others warn that it could be a slippery slope. "This is a troubling aspect of the AJA, allowing a person to sue," says labor attorney Daniel Saperstein to Human Resource Executive Online. "Would that make it enough for a person to say, 'I saw your ad' and filed a lawsuit? The New Jersey law does not allow a private right of action, and that makes more sense."

Should Congress approve the American Jobs Act, President Obama hopes it can bring the unemployment level back below 9 percent where it has been for months now. Currently around 14 million Americans are officially unemployed, nearly half of whom have been jobless for six months or longer.