Still, she said she backed the legislation after colleagues showed her employment ads specifying that the unemployed should not bother applying.
"I found that absolutely reprehensible," Riley said. "When you apply for a job, you should be viewed based on your skill level, not whether you have a job or not."
Connecticut lawmakers are proposing legislation that would ban discriminatory job ads, but may back off from a more far-reaching provision that would permit unemployed job seekers who claim discrimination to file a complaint with the state's human rights commission or sue in court.
The largest business group in the state, the Connecticut Business & Industry Association, sees a ban on discriminatory job ads as reasonable, but lobbyist Kia Murrell said businesses will fight efforts to give workers the right to sue over claims of discrimination.
"You as the employer will be shaking in fear of a claim of unemployment discrimination," she said.
The state's human rights commission told lawmakers that substantiating bias in hiring would be difficult and could require its staff to be nearly doubled if just a small fraction of Connecticut's 150,000 unemployed were to file a discrimination claim.
State Sen. Edith Prague and Rep. Bruce Zalaski, who head the legislature's Labor and Public Employees Committee, said they may drop the provision allowing claims of discrimination.
"It's not our intent that everyone can be sued," Zalaski said.
The National Employment Law Project, based in New York, wants states to add laws that do more than ban discriminatory ads. Laws should explicitly prohibit employers and employment agencies from eliminating from consideration candidates who are unemployed, the advocacy group says.
"You want to tell employers they can't screen workers out of the process because they're unemployed," said George Wentworth, a lawyer for the group.
Chesney-Offutt, of Sandwich, Ill., said she took a 4-hour-a-week job teaching voice lessons so she could tell prospective employers she was employed.
"They didn't care I was unemployed," she said. "They just wanted to know if I could teach voice lessons."
The strategy worked and she eventually got a job in insurance customer service, taking calls from customers reporting claims. It doesn't allow her to use her information technology skills, but she's glad to be working.
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