Experts Discussed Reimagining Equity for Workers with Gaps in Employment History
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) hosted, on April 26, 2022, a virtual roundtable titled “Untapped Potential: Reimagining Equity for Workers with Gaps in Employment History,” as part of the HIRE Initiative, and discussed challenges workers face when reentering the workforce after periods of unemployment.
"As our country makes major investments in our infrastructure, and we rebuild from the pandemic, we have a critical opportunity to ensure everyone has a chance to contribute to America's economy,” said OFCCP Director Jenny R. Yang. "At today's roundtable, we explored the wealth of talent that is often hidden from employers by hiring screens that exclude highly qualified workers simply because of a period of unemployment. We explored key strategies for employers to expand opportunity to good jobs by ensuring job-related criteria is the foundation of the hiring process.”
“Workers who have experienced periods of unemployment are an often overlooked talent pool with a great deal to contribute to our society, and they can be a serious boon to employers seeking to fulfill today's staffing needs,” said EEOC Chair Charlotte A. Burrows. “They are diverse, and many are from groups that have been historically marginalized in the workplace or denied an opportunity because of discrimination. They are caregivers, older workers, disabled persons, and formerly incarcerated community members who offer valuable job skills. Giving equal consideration to all candidates regardless of resume gaps is one way employers can promote our nation’s values and sustain a diverse, equitable, inclusive, and accessible workplace.”
A panel of four experts representing organizations advocating on behalf of workers discussed the job skills that workers with employment gaps offer employers and suggested promising practices for employers to improve recruiting and hiring practices.
“Almost everything employers ‘know’ about applicants with an employment history gap is wrong,” said Eve Hill, Chair, Board of Trustees, Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law and Partner, Brown, Goldstein & Levy. “It’s time to rethink the assumptions we still carry from the work world of the past, so we can attract the best talent in today’s world.”
“For businesses to grow they will need to attract and retain a diverse talent pool,” said Teresa Y. Hodge, President of Mission: Launch. “This diversity going forward will include people with gaps in their employment history for various reasons. The opportunity to learn and grow as a person exists both internal and external to the workplace.”
“Workers who have gaps on their resumes due to caregiving or pregnancy should not face discrimination when looking for a new job, especially as the pandemic has forced family members to care for loved ones in the face of unprecedented illness and school closures,” said Elizabeth Gedmark, Vice President at A Better Balance. “Workers who dropped out, or were pushed out, of the workplace, disproportionately mothers and people of color, deserve a fair shot and to be recognized for the many skills and values learned during their time away from the paid labor market.”
“AARP is pleased to contribute to this effort to break down barriers and build equity for groups of workers that are often overlooked or ignored,” said Heather Tinsley-Fix, Senior Advisor, Financial Resilience, American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). “Older workers bring high levels of engagement, productivity, and soft skills to the table, yet age discrimination remains distressingly common. In 2020, AARP research revealed that 78% of workers over 40 had seen or experienced age discrimination at work. Research shows that organizations benefit from a multigenerational workforce, and that age should be part of diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives.”
A recording of the roundtable will be available on EEOC’s YouTube channel.
Through the HIRE Initiative, the EEOC and OFCCP will continue to host roundtable discussions and meetings to identify actionable strategies to promote organizational policies and practices that advance equity. The agencies will develop materials such as guidance documents or promising practice resources. These resources will promote evidence-based research and innovative initiatives aimed at embedding equity in recruitment and hiring practices.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.