60 Minutes and Bad Employment Laws

Photo:  Leo Reynolds

If you don’t watch 60 Minutes, you’re seriously missing out on what I’d consider the most informative show on TV. Give it a shot this Sunday, it’s awesome.

Lately they’ve been making news by reporting the news. After airing a story about the STOCK Act, a bill aimed at barring politicians from trading on and profiting from non-public information that had virtually no support in Congress, the bill suddenly got legs. Serious legs, such that it gained enough support to have recently become law. 60 Minutes educated a lot of people on the issue and those people let their reps in Congress hear about it.

This past Sunday, 60 Minutes did a story about initiatives aimed at helping the long-term unemployed. As Scott Pelley (definitely one of the best in the business, if you ask me) reported, “Never in the last 60 years has the length of unemployment been so long. 4 million people, a full third of the unemployed have been out of work for over a year.” Unemployment is a subject we cover often here at ApplyMate, and I was excited to learn about the initiatives 60 Minutes reported (training programs, internships, etc. for the long-term unemployed). Some really great stuff aimed at helping a ton of people in dire need.

Now, I’m a bit worried the “60 Minutes Effect” will take hold of one part of this story. When reporting about the long-term unemployed, the issue of bias against the unemployed surfaced. For those not familiar, some companies post jobs that explicitly exclude the unemployed. It’s not because they dislike those people (despite what some politicians might have you think), but because the long-term unemployed tend to have less current skills and cost more to train (and therefore, to hire).

I wrote about this issue back in October, after it was part of the White House’s failed American Jobs Act of 2011. Check out the link for why I think passing a law prohibiting employers from excluding the jobless is a bad idea.

Now, just a few days after the 60 Minutes piece, is this Wall Street Journal story about states considering legislation forbidding employers from excluding the jobless from open jobs. More than a dozen states are considering such laws. Obviously these laws would have to have been in motion long before the 60 Minutes piece aired, but so was the STOCK Act and that went from virtually dead to law within weeks of the 60 Minutes story. It’s very possible that these state laws could get the same kind of boost, but I hope not.

From the WSJ piece, ‘Creating a protected class of people who bring lawsuits is just going to benefit the people who bring the lawsuits,’ said Robert Topel, a labor economist at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.” Not to mention the retarding affect this boon-to-tort lawyers will have on companies who might (or might not) post job openings. With unemployment so high, hiring managers are already unable to keep up with all the unqualified applications they receive. Now they have to worry about getting sued by those unqualifieds who could claim they were “discriminated against.” I see this as a recipe for disaster and a good way to reduce the amount of available jobs.

Hopefully the 60 Minutes Effect doesn’t come to bear on this issue. I’d much rather they stick to keeping politicians and child predators in line. Oh, and Anderson Cooper gushing over pop and sports celebrities.

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Tim Murphy is the founder of ApplyMate.com - the first free web app to help you track school and job applications.

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