Discrimination against the unemployed?

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A tiny woman with a determined look on her face is standing in the middle of a crowded job fair. When we pass by she says, “I just want a job. I want a job”!

The question: Is she being overlooked?
Federal officials are investigating ongoing reports that companies are trying to exclude the unemployed. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is examining how prevalent the practice might be and whether it could violate federal job discrimination laws.

There’s no special legal protection for unemployed workers but commissioners are investigating whether excluding jobless applicants may be especially difficult on African Americans, Latinos or other ethnic minorities that tend to have higher unemployment rates.

“The longer you stay unemployed, the worse it looks,” Mike Hayes, owner of Momentum Specialized Staffing in Phoenix, told us.

Hayes says while it’s unclear if there is discrimination going on in Arizona, you’ll have a lot of explaining to do if there are big gaps in your unemployment history. “Where were you? Maybe you were in prison. I don’t know,” he told us.

Hayes, who writes a blog about how to find a job says that since the recession, employers have learned to do more with less. 

Steve Bitter found this out the hard way. Bitter and a father of two young children he spent months searching for a job. When we met up with him, he was living in a rented home after he and his family were forced to foreclose.

Through it all, he managed to stay positive. Bitter shared his philosophy, “Just have the best attitude and hope things will improve.” 

That, says Mike Hayes, is a huge part of getting hired: A positive attitude. No matter what you’ve been through over the past few years. Hayes says, “You basically gotta paste a smile on your face.”

Hayes shares the following advice:

-Stay active: Volunteer in your community or do something that shows that you’re not just sitting around.

-Continue to work on your communication skills: Hayes recommends a class like Toastmasters

-Network on sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

Sending out resumes, according to Hayes, is just not enough.

“Make sure you’re putting in the shoe leather,” he told us, “Sitting around sending out resumes and saying that you are actively looking for a job – that will not get you a job.”

While the unemployment rate in Arizona looms at 9.6 percent. More than 600,000 people are out of a job but the worse may not be over.

“Gas is going to be a huge problem,” Hayes says. With rising gas prices, it will cost you more to get to work.

Employment expert Mike Hayes worries that people will choose to stay on unemployment longer and that our 9.6 percent unemployment rate could go even higher.