It would be hard to design a more obvious example of why New York City employers should be terrified of Christine Quinn’s Mayoral ambitions than the passage earlier this month of an unprecedented bill allowing lawsuits for damages by unemployed job-seekers against any employer that tries to hire in the City:
When the law takes effect in three months, the city will be the fourth place in the country with some form of legislation against discriminating against unemployed job-seekers. But it will be alone in letting applicants sue employers for damages over claims that they were rejected because of their joblessness.
The measure, backed by Quinn, passed over a veto by Mayor Mike Bloomberg. Bloomberg has made a lot of headlines with his social liberal nanny-state-ism, but he remains mostly a moderate on this sort of bread-and-butter business-climate issue; it can and will get a lot worse for New Yorkers if Quinn or one of the other Democratic aspirants becomes the first Democratic Mayor of New York since David Dinkins was run out of town on a rail in 1993, kicking off the city’s economic, safety and quality-of-life renaissance.
Employment discrimination law is already a costly and dysfunctional mess, but at least there are legitimate reasons why we tolerate some of that in the name of deterring, say, racial discrimination. But being unemployed is not any sort of immutable characteristic subject to historic claims of discrimination, and what’s more, some people are unemployed for good reasons that should set off prospective employers’ alarm bells. It’s in the self-interest of any employer to tell the difference between those applicants and people who got blindsided by a bad economy – and historically, when the job market heats up, employers get a lot less picky about hiring people who have been out of work. But creating a new right to sue for damages is a serious deterrent to hiring, given that each new job opening could potentially lead to multiple lawsuits, to say nothing of the levels of legal review that must be added to protect companies against such suits in advance.
New York City is alone in taking this step, but not for lack of trying by liberals characteristically oblivious to consequences:
Unemployment-discrimination laws have been floated around the country in recent years. President Barack Obama proposed one in 2011, and New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington, D.C., have passed laws barring jobs ads that say applicants must be employed. New Jersey, which enacted the first such measure in 2011, has cited at least one company for an ad that excluded jobless applicants, its state Labor Department says.
But the concept has hit roadblocks in other states. California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed an unemployment-discrimination measure last fall, indicating he wasn’t happy with changes made to it. At least 15 other states have considered the idea but haven’t enacted it.
We are in the midst of an era of unchained liberal hubris, the likes of which we haven’t seen since the 1970s. If Christine Quinn becomes the Mayor, expect New York to adopt still more ideas too pie-in-the-sky liberal for Jerry Brown or Mike Bloomberg.