Bronx residents are among the growing ranks of New Yorkers who say they are trapped in a vicious circle of unemployment — rejected time and time again for jobs that could put food on the table, resurrect stalled careers and pull them out of a downward spiral of debt.
Despite their qualifications and experience, these job seekers contend that they have not been given a fair shot because of one counterintuitive reason: They are already unemployed.
“I’ll do anything — but somebody has to be willing to hire me,” said Mr. Mango, 43, who has not worked in nine months and said he lost his home because he could not pay the rent. “If you’re not working, that’s already Strike 1 against you.”
New York City appears likely to adopt a law that would allow unsuccessful job applicants to sue businesses who they believe hold their unemployment status against them in making hiring decisions. The measure is widely seen as the toughest step yet in a flurry of recent efforts by the Obama administration and elected officials in at least 18 states, including New York, to help the long-term unemployed.
In New York City, on average, 372,000 people were unemployed in 2012, 38 percent for a year or longer, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. Blacks and Hispanics accounted for disproportionately large shares of the long-term unemployed.
“It’s the ultimate kick in the tuchis and completely unfair,” Christine C. Quinn, speaker of the City Council, said in an interview. Ms. Quinn, a leading Democratic contender for mayor, rallied council members to adopt the unemployment bill by a vote of 44 to 4 last month. “We want to do everything we can to help people work.”
But the measure has been criticized by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who has called it “misguided” and intends to veto it. He and other opponents, including many business leaders, say that an employer has a right to consider what a person was doing before applying for a job, and that the legislation could spur numerous lawsuits by unsuccessful applicants and deter companies from hiring anyone at all. In a rare public split with Mr. Bloomberg, Ms. Quinn said she had enough support to override a mayoral veto.
The law, if enacted, could take effect as soon as this summer. It would allow unsuccessful applicants to sue a business for discrimination, or file a complaint with the city’s Human Rights Commission, which would be authorized to impose penalties on an offending business, including fines up to $250,000, and require that an applicant be hired.
Jaime Rodriguez, 38, said he had interviewed unsuccessfully with at least eight companies since being laid off in May from a $79,000-a-year job as a purchasing manager at SUNY Maritime College. He was also, he said, facing eviction after falling three months behind on rent and defaulting on his credit cards. Mr. Rodriguez, a former Marine and a father of four who has a master’s degree in business administration, said employers usually did not give a specific reason for rejecting an applicant.
“They reply back, ‘We find your résumé interesting, but we’ve decided to pick someone else,’ ” he said. “I don’t think there’s a way to enforce the law.”