Unemployed Worker Discrimination in New Jersey

Unemployed workers face many challenges trying to obtain employment. According to one study, it is harder to find a job the longer one has been unemployed. In fact, the rate of finding a job declines by about 50% after 8 months of unemployment.

Many hiring managers assume that if an employee was good, they would not have been let go. Being unemployed, therefore, appears to be a commentary on someone’s work ability—and a negative comment at that.

Fortunately, workers in New Jersey have some protection against discrimination on the basis of being unemployed. The law isn’t as expansive as it could be, but it is at least a start. If you feel you have been discriminated against, please contact one of our New Jersey attorneys to schedule an initial consultation.

New Jersey Prohibition on Advertisements

N.J.S.A. 34:8B-1 prohibits most employers from purposefully publishing an advertisement that:

  • States that being currently employed is a qualification for the job
  • States that the unemployed will not be considered or reviewed for a job
  • States that only currently employed applicants will be reviewed

There are some carve-outs to these rules. For example, a company can limit a job opening to only those currently employed in their firm.

These prohibitions apply to both print advertisements and those on the internet. An employer who violates these provisions can be fined $1,000 for a first violation, $5,000 for a second, and $10,000 for subsequent violations.

No Private Right of Action

Though New Jersey prohibits this language in advertisements, it has not created a private right of action for citizens. This means that you cannot sue simply because an employer published an ad containing an illegal provision. Only the state can seek money from the employer in the form of fines.

There has been quite a bit of discussion over whether the unemployed should be a protected class under our state’s anti-discrimination law, much as race and gender are protected classes. For example, an employer cannot refuse to hire someone because she is female. If they do, she can sue in court.

However, the unemployed are not a protected class under either federal or state law. This means that employers are not prohibited from discriminating against them in New Jersey.

I was Discriminated Against Because I’m Unemployed

It is important to take a full view of your current situation. It might be that you are actually being discriminated against because of age, not unemployment status. Many older workers are the first to be let go during an economic downturn. Other employers might be slow to hire them because of their advanced age.

Federal law prohibits age discrimination for anyone 40 or older. New Jersey law has no minimum age. Any employer who basis an employment discrimination on age is violating our state’s law.

If you believe you are being discriminated against, Sattiraju & Tharney, LLP can help. Our team has deep experience in employment discrimination cases, and we can meet to review the facts as you know them. Contact us today.