Tyrades! By Danny Tyree
Your momma probably gave you inadequate advice about seeking a job.
She likely told you that poor posture, low grades, a police record, body piercings and tattoos could all prejudice a potential employer against you. She probably FAILED to warn you, “Don’t go to work for a company that will someday in the distant future get tangled up in the subprime mortgage business and wind up having to lay off mass numbers of employees through no fault of their own. Get your elbows off the table.”
As the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has learned, a disturbing number of companies discriminate against the unemployed, absolutely refusing to interview anyone who doesn’t already HAVE a job. Companies used to have inspiring slogans such as “Ford Has A Better Idea” or “The Breakfast of Champions.” Now it’s “Them What Has, GETS.” Or maybe “Acme Corp.: Attracting Disgruntled Employees Is Job One.”
The lack of empathy is evident in the first four questions that are asked on the applications that are grudgingly handed to the unemployed. 1. Name? 2. Educational background? 3. Are there no prisons? 4. Are there no workhouses?
Many of the unemployed have valuable skills and a deep desire to get off the public dole and return to constructive work. Many of the people who are fortunate enough to have a job already are interested in switching careers as a lark. So rather than consider the person with a fire in the belly, recruiters want to focus on the applicant with a porterhouse in the gastrointestinal tract. Makes perfect sense. (“I once had to interview an applicant who –EWWWW! — lost his job. He was so NEEDY. I wanted an applicant who would sweep me off my feet while the wind tossed his Fabio-like hair and…”)
Yep, these employers are doing their part to get this country out of the unemployment quagmire that lingers from The Great Recession. (“It’s time to roll up our sleeves and get this great nation MOVING LATERALLY again.”)
Companies discriminating against the unemployed insist that they are perfectly justified in weeding out such shiftless riffraff. Those who are jobless tend to be less qualified as a group and may have fallen behind in job skills. Employers need their employees to be up-to-date and cutting-edge – EXCEPT FOR THE HUMAN RESOURCES DEPARTMENT, which apparently is still living in the 1940s. (“*Ahem!* I’m sorry. You’ll need to use the water fountain labeled ‘Unemployed only’.”)
In March New Jersey became the first state to enact a law making it illegal to post job listings that make current employment a condition of applying or being hired. Congress is considering the Fair Employment Act of 2011, which would amend the Civil Rights Act to make it illegal for employers to refuse to hire people simply because of their employment status.
My totally unscientific survey on the topic finds respondents considering the offending employers’ policies to be insensitive, illogical, short-sighted and counterproductive. But should it be ILLEGAL for companies to do dumb stuff? Should the unemployed be considered a distinct class worthy of protection, the same way current laws protect workers on the basis of gender, race, ethnicity, religion and age?
Perhaps companies should have to sweat for a while as the country debates the issue.
Acme, we have your name on file. Don’t call us, we’ll call you.
©2011 Danny Tyree. Danny welcomes reader e-mail responses at firstname.lastname@example.org and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades”.
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