As part of President Obama's American Jobs Act, the Fair Employment Opportunity Act would add unemployed individuals who are actively seeking work as a protected class under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, giving the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) the power to investigate discrimination complaints and levy fines, penalties and injunctive relief (as well as lawyer's fees).

Hiring agents would still be free to weigh whether a job seeker's employment history matches the needs of the open position, but it would preclude the types of classified ads that have appeared in the ongoing recession that say, in essence, "the unemployed need not apply."

Although reintroduced as part of the American Jobs Act, the Fair Employment Opportunity Act is already under review by committees in both the House and Senate, though its chances of getting through the House might be tough.

Discrimination lawsuits are on the rise, and employers should take every precaution in not only the hiring process but also in termination and discipline proceedings. Personnel Concepts offers an EEO Compliance Program to help you keep the complaints and legal actions at bay.