By Joe Shortsleeve, WBZ-TV

BOSTON (CBS) – “Unemployed need not apply”. That’s the message many job seekers are hearing in this tough economy.

At Operation ABLE in Boston, job seekers are brushing up on skills and learning to network, but that might not be enough to land a job.

Pembroke Chinn attends sessions there as he seeks to re-launch his career in the clean energy field. He can sense recruiters don’t like the fact he is currently unemployed. “It’s more of an attitude,” he explained. “You can see it. You can feel it. Just body language. The entire attitude is rather negative.”

WBZ-TV’s Joe Shortsleeve reports

No company with an opening has come out and said anything to job-seeker Christine Spacone about her employment status, but she senses it too. “It’s instinct,” she said.

Some internet job posts we found came right out and stated only currently employed workers should apply.

Recruiting executive Tracy Cashman of Winter Wyman said some employers worry that out-of-work people won’t be up to speed technically. Others believe that companies lay off their weakest workers first, which makes unemployed workers less attractive.

“The majority of people that we are asked to find by our clients are passive job seekers,” said Cashman. “There are people who are employed, but who aren’t necessarily out there, not posted on any of the boards or sites out there.”

This mindset leaves 14 million unemployed Americans on the sidelines, unable to get a job because they don’t have one. In what is considered one of the worst job markets ever, that might not sound right, but it is legal.

Boston College Law professor Kent Greenfield said this is not considered discrimination, because employment status isn’t given the same consideration as gender or religion.

Greenfield believes some groups suffer more. “This does tend to hurt people who are older, and it also hurts minorities,” he said.

President Obama wants to make discrimination against the long term unemployed illegal in larger companies. It is part of his jobs bill.

Older unemployed workers like Lynn Garland of Londonderry worry that even a new law won’t change much. “They are going to dance around it, just like they dance around the age,” she said.

She now dyes her hair, and has been looking for a full-time job for a year and half. “I don’t think it is right, “she stated. “Point of fact, you’re going to get people who want to work and want to do a good job.”

Lynn attends a weekly networking session at the Orchard Christian Fellowship in Londonderry, for both spiritual and career support.

Group leader Lee Carvill has helped four dozen workers get back on track, despite the challenges the long term unemployed face. “There is the perception in the marketplace that the longer you are out of work, the further behind you are, and therefore why take a chance?”

Some states are considering legislation which would ban companies from posting job openings that state unemployed workers won’t be considered.

Meanwhile the job market remains difficult. There are four applicants for every open position right now.

Comments (4)
  1. Robert Walsh says:

    This is nothing new. This practice has been going on for at least 30 years. I got my first degree in 1982 at the height of the Reagan Recession, then my second undergrad in 1989 during the Massachusetts Miracle bust and the financial crisis of that time. I recently got my Master’s Degree, and will soon have that taken away from me due to chronic unemployment which leads to underemployment, which in my book means not only those part timers looking for full time work, but also those degree holders who can’t find work in their chosen fields.

  2. mikey says:

    It’s a fact of life. Companies want the workers who are workers, and fair or not, the perception is that if you aren’t working now, it means you didn’t work out for someone else. It’s like a pre-screening for HR that doesn’t want to have to do their job.

    You have to be careful in any job market, but in these times more so than others. It’s how you ‘present’ yourself. NEVER be ‘out of work’. Be consulting, even if it’s for free or for something paid way under market. NEVER say you’re available for work immediately, even if you have less than a dollar to your name, always say in 2 weeks. Always have ‘something’ that could be construed as ‘work related’ in the queue. Don’t like, but make sure you can ‘present’ it to look the best.

    1. Robert Walsh says:

      But be careful about that “2 weeks” rule. Companies will find you out then kick you out for lying about whether you are working or not. Also, being available in “2 weeks when they know you aren’t working leaves the impression that you’re a slacker. Always present yourself as being eager to tackle new challenges.

      1. mikey says:

        Who said anything about lying? It’s all in the presentation. You always have ‘commitments’, especially if you are consulting or volunteering.

        But in one sense you’re right. I had one interview after a layoff where I was asked to start that afternoon, after the interview…

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