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In Wisconsin, do you need to have a job to get a job?

Many Wisconsin residents may have felt a bit relieved when last week's U.S. jobs report showed the unemployment rate dipping in February to its lowest point since December 2008. As the economy continues to mend, many people who have long been out of work may be able to finally find employment.

Although there may be more jobs, it may still remain difficult for those who have been out of work for a long time to become employed. This is because, unfortunately, some employers here in Wisconsin do discriminate against people who are unemployed. Such employers tend to say they prefer job applicants whose skills are fresh and they also hold other prejudices against people who are out of work. Several states are seeking to combat discrimination against the unemployed, but so far Wisconsin is not among them.

Last week, New York City became the fourth place to ban this kind of employment discrimination, and the first place to allow rejected job applicants to sue employers for monetary damages if they were discriminated against due to their unemployment. New Jersey, Oregon and Washington, D.C., have bans against this kind of employment discrimination but they do not allow victims to sue for damages.

The concept of discrimination against those who are out of work appears to be a widespread problem in the U.S. About 15 additional states have considered banning this kind of discrimination, but none have taken action. And in 2011 President Barack Obama proposed a federal ban but it was not successful.

Advocates of the unemployed say that it does not make any sense to require people to have jobs in order to get jobs, but unfortunately employers in many states including Wisconsin can currently have such policies against hiring the unemployed.

Source: Associated Press, "Jobless-Discrimination Law in New York City is Adopted," Jennifer Peltz, March 13, 2013

  • Our law firm in Milwaukee stands up for the rights of workers when it comes to discrimination and a number of other employment law issues. For more information about our practice, please visit our Employee Rights page.

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