Finding a job is hard enough these days, as evidenced by the stubbornly high unemployment rate in the U.S., which ticked up to 9% in April 2011, according to the Labor Department.

As if massive downsizing, intense competition for jobs and outsourcing weren't enough, American workers must also contend with misguided hiring practices that are prevalent in virtually every industry in the country.

Following are three unfair and inappropriate hiring practices that discriminate against millions of would-be employees, contribute to higher levels of chronic unemployment, and pose potential threats to job-hunters' financial security. All three of these misguided hiring practices should be illegal.

1. Discriminating Against the Unemployed

For well over a year, many employers nationwide have been posting job advertisements declaring that the "unemployed need not apply" and that job-seekers "must be currently employed." Other employers have indicated they'll only hire those who've been unemployed for fewer than six months.

Any requirement that job candidates already be employed unfairly locks out the country's 14 million unemployed individuals who may be looking for work.

Jobless rate for the past 13 monthsThis blatant form of discrimination also disproportionately impacts African-Americans, mothers who may be returning to the workforce and older workers -– all of whom have higher levels of joblessness. For example, the rate of unemployment for African-Americans now stands at 16%.

Fortunately, states and the federal government are starting to look at this disturbing trend of companies refusing to consider unemployed job applicants.

New Jersey just passed a law, which takes effect in June, which forbids employers from advertising job notices that indicate that the unemployed cannot apply. Violators face fines of $1,000 for the first offense and $5,000 for repeat offenses.

Also, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) earlier this year conducted a forum on discrimination against unemployed job seekers. The EEOC hearing came in the wake of members of Congress urging the commission to investigate the issue.

With any luck, lawmakers will create federal legislation banning discrimination against unemployed Americans, which is exactly what's been introduced in the Fair Employment Act of 2011 now winding its way through a Congressional committee.

2. Employment-Based Credit Checks

I understand that employers want, and have a right to, conduct employment-based screening for potential new hires. But why do credit checks, where an employer reviews someone's credit reports from Equifax, Experian or TransUnion, have to be part of the process?

Isn't it enough to assess a candidate's job skills and work history, check out a person's references, verify his or her educational background, and conduct a thorough interview to determine their qualifications? It should be. Perhaps that's why several states in the U.S. now ban job applicant credit checks and more are eyeing the issue.

I've yet to see any study – empirical or otherwise – that proves that people with great credit are better employees than those with average or even bad credit, or that people with shaky credit can't be good employees.

And even if researchers did come up with such statistical proof, it hardly seems reasonable or business-savvy for companies to weed out desirable, skilled job applicants simply because they happen to have negative marks on their credit reports.

Still, according to the Society for Human Resource Management, 60% of all employers perform employment-related credit checks, either for some or all of their employees.

As many out-of-work Americans hard hit by the recession will attest, credit checks only make the process of finding work far more difficult.

If your credit is less than perfect, here's some advice to improve your credit rating and maximize your credit score.

3. Asking for People's Social Security Number Prematurely

Obviously, when someone is hired for a job, that person's employer will need his or her Social Security number to process their paperwork. This helps companies and individuals accurately report taxes, and comply with IRS rules and other federal regulations.

But employers should be prohibited from asking for people's Social Security numbers until after an individual has been hired. Otherwise, job candidates are put at unacceptably high levels of risk for identity theft.

Identity theft, which affects nearly 10 million people annually in the U.S., is one of the fastest-growing white-collar crimes in America. And one of the most common places where it occurs is in the workplace.

I'm always amazed at the number of people and places that ask individuals for sensitive information or personal financial data. Prospective employers, unfortunately, fall into this category, too.

Consider the job-hunter who has applied for dozens of jobs. He or she has filled out scores of electronic or paper applications. If a job candidate has to give out her Social Security number to many dozens of companies – or even just a handful – this important information is floating around far too many places, increasing the person's chances of having her sensitive data compromised.

To diminish this risk, a job candidate should only be required to provide her Social Security number once she has a firm job offer in hand – and has accepted that offer. (Whether you're job hunting or not, read up on some tips to avoid having your identity stolen.)

I shudder to think of the Catch-22 facing the person who's already been victimized by identity theft and is looking for work. Strike 1.

That individual may now have bad credit – due solely to the havoc wreaked by a identity thief – which limits his or her job options. Strike 2.

Consequently, this jobless person may be unfairly screened out from applying for or receiving any number of jobs, making him or her more likely to continue being jobless for a prolonged period of time. Strike 3.

What a mess.

If federal authorities made these three misguided hiring practices illegal, it would help curb workplace discrimination, lower the unemployment rate and provide greater financial security for struggling job-hunters.

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21 Comments

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Robert & Lisa

Sure, more regulation is the answer, not. That is the real reason we are in this mess. Get the government off our backs like Reagan did and we'll pull out of this economic disaster just like we did out of the Jimmy Carter years.

May 10 2011 at 6:09 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
lchaves33

Who are you to tell people how to run their businesses? Have you ever put everything on the line to try and make a living?
These laws that are already in effect are nothing but a huge waste of time and resources. We would have a much more prosperous economy if the government kept their noses out of people's business.
Anyone can get a job anywhere if they want to work. I've done it myself and have had enployees show me that they want a job.
Only wimps like you whine about what people should and shouldn't do. I tend to disassociate the minute I hear the words "I know what's best for you".
Give it a rest.

May 09 2011 at 9:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
osamaobama69

simple folks, have the brains and guts to have your own business ( it takes brains & ballz not much money ), then you can hire people whom will lie, cheat and steal from you, and when they get caught, will try to sue you. a job is not a entitlement but a privilage from someone far more competent than you...... sorry, truth doesnt always come with a scoop of icecream

May 09 2011 at 7:05 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bosfakebirthcert

test

May 09 2011 at 6:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
thomgrisso

What total Crap the responses are .... Knowing credit as I do ....These are extrodinary times where many many respectable hard working people have had their .....Entire industries destroyed and long term unemployment and credit failure due to housing are the norm .....It is easy to eliminate the many that you would need to pay more in favor of the young and inexperinced .... The last four years have devestated many that had sparkling credit and long term constant employment ...... Totaol crap on the part of the responders ....

May 09 2011 at 2:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
sidusinc

When employers look for self-starters with a lot of personal responsibility, a person who is unwilling to, or incapable of finding a job for a long period of time is HIGHLY undesireable. When making a hiring decision, employers look for every clue as to the attitude of a potential worker. Paying your bills on time is a highly valid measure of personal responsibility. A person with poor credit is likely to be someone who thinks that their problems are someone elses fault, or worse has a bad case of "I deserve everything now." It is similar to checking a person's driving record even though the job doesn't require driving. It tells you if a person considers themselves above the law, and what their attitude is about following rules. Go out and earn a million dollars, invest it in a business, and I think you would change your opinion.

May 09 2011 at 12:21 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
myammer

Agree with #1 and #3..but #2 can indicate the perspective employees self discipline...for example, I have noticed the same staff who tell us about how they have big credit card balances....are the same staff who go through paid sick and vacation days like water, use them all, then.....when they really get sick, they want leave without pay or to "work something out" -The work ethic matches the credit ethic.

May 09 2011 at 12:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
evd10

I too believe that number one is unfair, but it won't do much good to pass legislation as the employer will eventually learn about it anyway and find another reason not to hire that person. As far as number two and three are concerned, the employer wants to know as much as they can about a potential hire. If something bad happens and the employer is sued because of an employee's actions the first thing the opposing attorney will ask is if the employer did a thorough background check on the employee before they were hired.

May 09 2011 at 11:27 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
cdsj

Credit checks tell me a lot about the character of a potential new employee. If I see a pattern of bad checks even when this individual was gainfully employed, I do not want them handling my companies' money or going into the homes of my customers. If there bankruptcy is a result of medical or business failure, I know good people have bad times and can live with that. However, if they file bankruptcy on large credit card balances while gainfully employed, this shows a lack of personal discipline and desires to live above their means. If the position I have includes the use of a corporate credit card, I have strong reason not to trust them with my companies' money.

May 09 2011 at 11:06 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
bohemianacres

I have to disagree with your thoughts on number two, the one of credit checks of potential employees, seeking a job at the financial institutions I rely on. I dread to think somebody who has problems handling their own personal budget or finances is handling my accounts at a bank or financial. If that employee is messing up their own, I can only imagine what they are doing with mine and also having access to my social security number. The proof, how did we get into this Great Recession mess in the first place. One of the reasons I took my money out of the biggies and put it into local financial institutions where regularly I meet the managers and employees in public places and church.

May 09 2011 at 10:24 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply