Oregon may ban job ads that exclude the unemployed

SALEM — The Oregon House voted Monday to make it illegal to post a job advertisement telling unemployed jobseekers not to apply.

Even if the measure passes, however, employers still could exclude unemployed applicants while flipping through resumes. Employers would only violate the new law if they say in the job ad that applicants must be currently employed. Violators would face a $1,000 fine.

Proponents say job ads that exclude unemployed workers discourage people who are struggling to find work in a depressed economy.

"It will send a message to employers that this type of employment discrimination is not fair and is not smart," said Rep. Jefferson Smith, D-Portland, a sponsor of the legislation.

Opponents say they're concerned about creating a new regulation on businesses.

"There's nothing I can perceive in this piece of legislation that would create one more job in the private sector," said Rep. Mark Johnson, R-Hood River, who did vote for it.

The House approved it on a 55-5 vote, sending the measure to Gov. John Kitzhaber. The governor will review it once it reaches his office, spokesman Tim Raphael said.

Oregon's unemployment rate was 8.9 percent in December, its lowest rate in three years, but still higher than the national rate. Nearly 176,000 people in Oregon who were looking for work remained unemployed.

A search of employment websites Monday for the phrase "must be currently employed" turned up in a handful of results for positions in a variety of industries around the country. Oregon's legislation would apply to any job based in Oregon.

People who are unemployed and trying to find a job shouldn't face yet another hurdle when there are already a limited number of job openings, said Sen. Diane Rosenbaum, D-Portland, a sponsor of the bill.

"It seemed like a ridiculous and unfair obstacle for people trying to compete for the jobs that are there," Rosenbaum said.

Several other states have considered similar legislation. A measure in Congress would go further, prohibiting employers from considering an applicant's employment status.

The bill is in a House committee.

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