The District of Columbia City Council and Mayor Vincent Gray have enacted a first-of-its-kind law protecting jobless individuals from discrimination in the hiring process. The new law prohibits employers and employment agencies from discriminating against potential employees based on their status as unemployed, and it is the first in the United States to both prohibit employers from considering the employment status of potential employees and provide whistleblower protections for current employees who report employer violations. Although the law does not give aggrieved individuals a private right of action to enforce the law, civil penalties are available and may be assessed against noncompliant employers by the D.C. Office of Human Rights. The Unemployed Anti-Discrimination Act of 2012 ("the Act") was signed by Mayor Vincent Gray on March 19, 2012, and has been in effect since May 31, 2012. Regulations implementing the Act are anticipated as well.
Scope of the Act
The Act defines "employer" broadly to include any employer with at least one employee, other than a family member or a domestic household servant, within the District of Columbia. The definition includes any person acting in the interest of the employer, directly or indirectly. The Act's prohibitions also apply to "employment agencies," defined as any person regularly undertaking, with or without compensation, to procure employees for an employer. "Potential employees" covered by the Act are those individuals who have applied to an open position of employment located within the District of Columbia. Finally, the term "status as unemployed" refers any person who, at the time of application for employment, does not have a job and is available and looking for work.
Prohibited Actions and Whistleblower Protections
The Act makes it an unlawful employment practice for an employer or employment agency to refuse to hire or consider for hire a potential employee based on his or her status as unemployed. The Act also specifically prohibits employers and employment agencies from publishing, in any medium, an advertisement for a job opening that states that an applicant's status as unemployed disqualifies the applicant from employment or from consideration for an available position.
Unlike similar statutes in effect in New Jersey and Oregon, the Act recognizes the unemployed as a protected class and contains broad protections for whistleblowers similar to those found in other...