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NYC Council passes bill protecting unemployed

Karen Matthews, Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) -- The New York City Council voted Wednesday to ban discrimination against job seekers who are unemployed.

The bill, which would provide the strongest protections for unemployed job seekers in the nation, passed 44-4 despite the objections of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who said he feared "a rash of lawsuits" from rejected applicants.

If enacted, the bill would prohibit employers from using a person's employment status in a hiring decision without a "substantially job-related" reason for doing so. Employers also will be prevented from posting help-wanted ads that require applicants to be currently employed.

"Discrimination is wrong in all its forms, and we cannot — and will not — allow New Yorkers who are qualified and ready to work have the door of opportunity slammed in their faces," City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said. "This bill will stop unfair hiring practices that are hurting New Yorkers who are trying to get back on their feet."

New Jersey and Oregon have passed laws prohibiting employers from using language in job advertisements that clearly excludes unemployed applicants and Washington, D.C., prohibits employers from considering unemployment status when making hiring decisions.

The New York City law would be the only one in the nation that allows applicants to sue in court if they believe they have been discriminated against. In Washington, unemployed applicants who believe they have been discriminated can only make complaints with the local Office of Human Rights.

Bloomberg has vowed to veto the bill, but Quinn has said council will override his veto.

Asked about the bill earlier Wednesday, Bloomberg called it "one of the most misguided pieces of legislation."

He predicted the bill would spark lawsuits which could be "devastating" to small businesses.

"And this is certainly not the time that we need an incentive for small businesses, in particular, to not hire anybody," Bloomberg said.