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Unemployment Discrimination Bill Stays Alive at Legislature

Posted in Discrimination & Harassment, Legislative Developments

After being reported out of the Joint Committee on Commerce earlier this month, Senate Bill 79 received a joint favorable vote from the Labor & Public Employee Committee earlier today meaning that bill stays alive in this legislative session.

Senate Bill 79, even as revised, would prohibit employers from discriminating against an individual because that person is unemployed.

The Commission on Human Rights & Opportunities has voiced its opposition to the bill because it would be the agency responsible for regulating such claims.

Putting aside the public policy arguments, the bill remains poorly drafted.  The bill never defines the most important piece of the bill itself — What does it mean to be “unemployed”?

Suppose someone is fired as a doctor from a hospital but is an independent contractor at local clinic: Is that person “unemployed” anymore? Does working on your own or part-time count?

What about people who remove themselves from the workforce for several years for various reasons and may not have the skills the employer is looking for. When they apply, they will be “unemployed”; is an employer barred from considering that as well?

We’ll see if politicians are using this bill for political reasons or whether they are serious about passage soon.

In the meantime,, that’s not the only bill still alive that may interest employers; bills regarding payroll cards and FMLA for municipal employees are still alive as well.  In this short session, stay tuned for lots of quick changes over the upcoming weeks.

  • Edward McAusher

    Good point, how could you define unemployed? After all, Mitt Romney is unemployed, right? Also, it seems hard enough to prove discrimination based on more obvious factors, the burden of proof on this one would be pretty steep, no???