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Letter To Jacqueline Berrien, Chair of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission - Possible Discrimination Against the Unemployed

Today, Rep. Hank Johnson (GA-04) sent a letter to U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Chair Jacqueline Berrien to request an investigation into possible discrimination against the unemployed.

Congressman Johnson is responding to reports of job listings that explicitly exclude unemployed applicants. Some advertisements stated that applications "must be currently employed" to apply or stipulated that "no unemployed candidates will be considered at all."

"Employer discrimination against unemployed job applicants is fundamentally wrong," said Rep. Johnson, who represents parts of DeKalb, Rockdale and Gwinnett counties in eastern metropolitan Atlanta. "With unemployment at 9.6 percent and more than 15 million Americans out of work, this discrimination will only prolong the crisis."

According to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report in October 2010, the national unemployment rate was 9.6 percent. The rates for African-Americans and Hispanics, however, are 15.7 percent and 12.6 percent, respectively.

"On behalf of our constituents, we are urging you to investigate how this discriminatory practice can have an adverse impact on the unemployed, minority groups and be an unnecessary barrier to employment for minorities," said Rep. Johnson.

Congressman Johnson, who authored the letter, has worked over the last week to rally support from his colleagues -- more than 55 members of Congress had signed the letter-- many of them in House leadership: Rep. John Lewis of Atlanta, Congressional Black Caucus Chair Rep. Barbara Lee of California, House Education and Labor Committee Chair Rep. George Miller of California, Judiciary Chairman Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, Chairman of the Financial Services Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois and Chairman of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support Jim McDermott of Washington state.

The text of the letter reads:

Jacqueline Berrien
Chair
U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
131 M Street, NE
Washington, DC 20507

Dear Chair Berrien:

We are writing with serious concerns regarding the recent news reports about the blatant discrimination against the unemployed. This is a very serious issue, especially considering approximately 15 million Americans are unemployed. According to various news reports, employers are posting advertisements stating: "must be currently employed" or "no unemployed candidates will be considered at all."

We are outraged by this discriminatory practice and are urging you to investigate how it can have an adverse impact on minority groups and be an unnecessary barrier to employment for minorities. Further, we are requesting that you issue a statement detailing how employers discriminating against the unemployed can open themselves up to disparate impact claims because a larger percentage of the unemployed population consists of minorities.

A policy where employers discriminate against the unemployed is unfair, unreasonable and simply ignores the effect of the recession on millions of highly-qualified workers who are unemployed through no fault of their own. Such a policy disproportionately hurts minorities as they suffer from higher unemployment rates than whites. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in October 2010, the national unemployment rate was 9.6%. The unemployment rate for whites was lower than the national rate at 8.8%. African-Americans and Hispanics, however, experienced unemployment rates that were above the national unemployment rate. African-Americans suffered from an unemployment rate of 15.7% and Hispanics from a 12.6% unemployment rate.

If this trend of employers discriminating against the unemployed continues, it will only prolong the unemployment crisis the United States is facing. Discriminating against the unemployed will not help America on its path to economic recovery. On behalf of our constituents, we are urging you to investigate how this discriminatory practice can have an adverse impact on minority groups and be an unnecessary barrier to employment for minorities. We are also requesting that you issue a statement detailing that discriminating against the unemployed could be illegal is it had a disparate impact on minority groups. We thank you in advance for your prompt attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Henry C. "Hank" Johnson, Jr.
Member of Congress

Sheila Jackson Lee
Member of Congress

Alcee L. Hastings
Member of Congress

Carolyn C. Kilpatrick
Member of Congress

Donna Christensen
Member of Congress

Bennie G. Thompson
Member of Congress

Laura Richardson
Member of Congress

Gwen Moore
Member of Congress

Emanuel Cleaver, II
Member of Congress

Jim McDermott
Member of Congress

John Lewis
Member of Congress

John Conyers
Member of Congress

Albio Sires
Member of Congress

Luis Gutierrez
Member of Congress

Raul Grijalva
Member of Congress

Eleanor Holmes Norton
Member of Congress

Al Green
Member of Congress

Maxine Waters
Member of Congress

Barbara Lee
Member of Congress

Joe Baca
Member of Congress

Bob Filner
Member of Congress

Jesse L. Jackson, Jr.
Member of Congress

Chris Van Hollen
Member of Congress

Edolphus Towns
Member of Congress

Yvette D. Clarke
Member of Congress

George Miller
Member of Congress

Solomon Ortiz
Member of Congress

Marcia L. Fudge
Member of Congress

Danny K. Davis
Member of Congress

Maurice D. Hinchey
Member of Congress

Jose E. Serrano
Member of Congress

Rosa DeLauro
Member of Congress

Lynn C. Woolsey
Member of Congress

Charles A. Gonzalez
Member of Congress

Rush Holt
Member of Congress

Alan Grayson
Member of Congress

Janice D. Schakowsky
Member of Congress

Tim Ryan
Member of Congress

Edward Markey
Member of Congress

Phil Hare
Member of Congress

Carolyn B. Maloney
Member of Congress

Grace F. Napolitano
Member of Congress

Elijah E. Cummings
Member of Congress

Marcy Kaptur
Member of Congress

Dennis J. Kucinich
Member of Congress

Pete Stark
Member of Congress

Sanford D. Bishop
Member of Congress

G.K. Butterfield
Member of Congress

Keith Ellison
Member of Congress

Chaka Fattah
Member of Congress

Wm. Lacy Clay
Member of Congress

Chellie Pingree
Member of Congress

Donald M. Payne
Member of Congress

Gregorio Kilili Sablan
Member of Congress


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