California Labor &
Employment Law Blog
Mar 7, 2012

Will Being Unemployed Be a New Protected Class?

Topics: Discrimination, Harassment & Retaliation, Employee Hiring, Discipline & Termination, New Laws & Legislation

State and federal lawmakers are growing increasingly concerned about how our economy is making it difficult for long term unemployed workers to get back into the workforce.  As a result, there is a movement to make being unemployed a new protected class.  With a larger than normal percentage of voters being unemployed, you can bet this will be popular with some politicians up for re-election in November. 

California is one of a number of states where legislation has been introduced to protect unemployed workers and prohibit an employer from using a person's unemployed status at the time of applying for a job as a negative criteria in the hiring process.  The California bill is AB 1450 and was introduced in January.  In addition to the California bill, Congress has introduced HR 2501 in the House and S 1471, two bills that would provide similar protections on a nationwide basis. 

Currently, most protected status suits deal with harassment and termination of the employment relationship.  Hiring discrimination cases are relatively rare.  However, if any of these bills pass, employers covered by them should expect a wave of new litigation by unemployed applicants applied for positions but were not hired.  Employers will certainly have to alter their hiring practices and train those making the hiring decisions and doing the screenings, in order to ensure that they can defend against such suits. 

These bills will be something to keep an eye on in the coming months.  We will continue to keep you posted on this blog.

About CDF

For over 25 years, CDF has distinguished itself as one of the top employment, labor and immigration firms in California, representing employers in single-plaintiff and class action lawsuits and advising employers on related legal compliance and risk avoidance. We cover the state, with five locations from Sacramento to San Diego.

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About the Editor in Chief

Sacramento Office Managing Partner and Chair of CDF’s Traditional Labor Law Practice Group. Mark has been practicing labor and employment law in California for thirty years. His practice has a special emphasis on the representation of California employers in union-management relations and handling federal and state court litigation and administrative matters triggered by all types of employment-related disputes. He is also adept at providing creative and practical legal advice to help minimize the risks inherent in employing workers in California. He recently named “Sacramento Lawyer of the Year” in Employment Law-Management for 2021 by Best Lawyers®.
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