Survey of Jewish Job-seekers Establishes Effect of F. E. P. Laws

For the second successive year, a survey of Jewish job-seekers has shown that fair employment practice laws apparently have reduced discriminatory questioning of applicants about their religion by both employers and commercial employment agencies. Such questioning is still widespread, however.

The survey, a report of which was released today, covered the experience of 2,319 applicants registering at Jewish vocational service agencies in 15 cities in the United States and Canada during March, 1956.

The report reveals that in U. S. cities not covered by state or local fair employment laws, 45 per cent of those who had also registered with private employment agencies had been asked about their religion. In cities protected by Fair Employment Practices laws, only 4,4 per cent had been asked such questions at private employment agencies.

Similar, but less striking differences were found in the case of those who had applied direct to employers. In cities without FEP, 17 per cent reported they had been asked about their religion as compared with about 81/2 per cent in FEP cities. The percentages are almost identical with those found in a similar survey in March, 1955.

Contrary to the common assumption that minorities tend to be overly sensitive and to suspect discrimination where it does not exist, the survey suggests that many applicants neither recognize nor complain of discrimination even when they encounter it. Less than one out of five of those who were asked about their religion by commercial employment agencies felt that they were discriminated against in any way.

DISCRIMINATION BELIEVED TO BE MORE WIDESPREAD THAN DATA SHOWS

The authors of the report believe that discrimination actually is more widespread than the figures they present would seem to indicate. They point out that much effort has been expended in recent years to induce employers to eliminate questions about religion from application forms and oral interviews and that such questions are expressly prohibited by FEP laws. They believe that the 6.6 per cent of applicants surveyed who reported that they had been asked such questions reflect only a part of the problem. The report notes in this connection.

Since discrimination on the basis of religion is frequently practiced subtly and without resort to such overt manifestations as discriminatory questions, the extent of such discrimination may safely be assumed to be more widespread than is revealed by these statistics.

The survey was part of a long-range cooperative program undertaken jointly by Jewish vocational agencies and Jewish community relations agencies. The program is under the direction of a joint committee on employment discrimination of the Jewish Occupational Council and the National Community Relations Advisory Council.

Questionnaires were filled out by applicants at Jewish vocational agencies in Baltimore Boston, Buffalo, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Denver, Los Angeles, Louisville, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, St. Louis and Montreal.

The replies from Montreal showed that the percentage of applicants questioned about their religion by employers (15.8 per cent), while down from 20.5 per cent in 1955, was substantially higher than the average for all reporting cities in the U. S. 6.6 per cent) and somewhat higher than in the non-FEP cities in the U. S. 15.2 per cent). Canada has a federal fair employment statute, but there is no provincial or municipal statute covering Montreal.

The joint JOC-NCRAC Committee announced that the survey would continue to be repeated at periodic intervals. In this way, the Committee believes, it will be able to study trends in discriminatory practices by employers and employment agencies, to discover, whether discrimination in the case of national firms is country-wide or confined to particular plants or offices, and to develop various findings that depend on cumulative statistics.

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