Laws are supposed to prevent hiring discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin, disability, pregnancy and age.

Laws are supposed to prevent hiring discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, national origin, disability, pregnancy and age.

But bias happens, even when strictly prohibited.

So what are the odds that we could combat a different discrimination — which appears to be growing in flagrancy — that discriminates against the long-term unemployed?

There are zero legal restrictions against that.

An excellent recent article in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution documented multiple instances in which hiring ads said the long-term unemployed (and, in some cases, any unemployed person) need not apply.

This isn't a new bias. There always has been presumption in some quarters that unemployed workers were jobless through faults of their own.

But mass layoffs in recent years should have challenged that view. Lots of good people have lost their jobs because they were in the wrong spots at the wrong time.

Now we're hearing that the legacy of those economy-based layoffs — long and deep — is an easy culling device to weed out candidates.

Some companies are saying it outright: We will consider only those candidates who are working. Others will entertain candidates who have been out of work for just a short while.

It's true that skills might get rusty and that employers requiring peak physical performance might not want to take a chance on someone inactive for more than a year. But the barrier to job re-entry thrown up by an "unemployed need not apply" posting is unconscionable. According to the Atlanta-based article, some employers may be feeling red-faced about posting such requirements. After media inquiries, the "employed candidates only" stipulations tended to vanish.

Unfortunately, that's not to say that the discrimination is gone. It may be unstated but still very real.