Bill would make unemployment status a ‘protected status’ for hiring purposes

UnemployedIf a bill proposed by state Rep. Bruce Hunter becomes law, prospective employers cannot discriminate against the unemployed.

Although House File 20, if passed, would not preclude employers from considering individuals’ employment history, or from examining the underlying reasons for his or her status as unemployed, it would prohibit employment discrimination based solely on an individual’s status as unemployed. It would charge the Iowa Civil Rights Commission with investigating such charges of discrimination.

“An employer is prohibited from publishing an advertisement or announcement for employment that includes any provision stating that an individual’s status as unemployed disqualifies the individual for any employment opportunity or any provision stating that the employer will not consider or hire an individual for any employment opportunity based on that individual’s status as unemployed,” the bill in its original form states. “An employer is prohibited from failing or refusing to consider for employment or failing or refusing to hire an individual because of the individual’s status as unemployed.”

Likewise, the bill prohibits an employer from directing or requesting that an employment agency take an individual’s status as unemployed into account to disqualify an applicant for consideration, screening, or referral for employment. The bill also applies to employment agencies.

If a complaint of discrimination prevails, House File 20 provides for damages including, but not limited to, actual damages, reasonable attorney fees, and for violations relating to publication of an advertisement, up to $1,000 for each day the violation occurs. In other cases where wages, salary, employment benefits, or other compensation have been denied or lost to the complainant, up to $5,000 may be awarded.

A number of lobbyist declarations have been made against the legislation, including the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe Railway Company, the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives, the Iowa Broadcasters Association, the Iowa Defense Counsel Association, the Iowa Grocery Industry Association, the Iowa Propane Gas Association, the Iowa Society of Certified Public Accountants, the Monsanto Company, the Federation of Iowa Insurers, the Iowa Association of Credit and Collection Professionals, the Iowa Automotive Dealers Association, and the Iowa Water Well Association. No lobbyists have declared support for the bill.