Janet Falk, a public relations professional, rides a tramway with a Manhattan view behind her on Thursday. Ms. Falk applied for a job at a New York City law firm two years ago, but the recruiter told her she wouldn’t be considered because she had been out of work for more than 3 months.
NEW YORK — Help wanted. Qualifications: Must already have a job.
It’s a frustrating catch for those out of work in an era of high unemployment: looking for a job, only to find that some employers don’t want anyone who doesn’t already have one. But after four years of above-average joblessness in the United States, efforts to bar such practices by employers have met with mixed results.
Janet Falk said that when she applied for a public-relations job at a New York law firm two years ago, the recruiter told her she wouldn’t be considered because she had been out of work for more than three months. The recruiter was being paid to find candidates who were in jobs or just out of them.
“My personal view is that hiring is like musical chairs, and if only the people who are already on the dance floor are playing, then the long-term unemployed can’t get in the game,” said Ms. Falk, who was laid off four years ago. She now runs her own consulting business.
While New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington, D.C., have passed laws making it illegal to discriminate against the unemployed, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg vetoed on Friday what would have been the most aggressive such measure in the country. Similar proposals have stalled in more than a dozen other states and Congress.
Advocates for the unemployed say such hiring practices are unfair. Businesses, though, say that the extent of such practices is exaggerated, hiring decisions are too complicated to legislate, and employers could end up defending themselves against dubious complaints.
Nationally, more than 1 in 3 unemployed workers has been looking for at least six months, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.
An October, 2011, search of New York City-based job listings found more than a dozen that explicitly required candidates to be employed, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer’s office said.