Do You Have Reliable Transportation?

The unsubtle classism of not being hired.

For most people reading this (especially those I know personally)— I’m sure you’re used to ticking the “yes” box on job applications after this question. It seems like a justified question. After all, of course an employer wants to know if you can get to work.

Usually, even if you check yes, they re-ask the question during the interview process. Or sometimes — they ask without the filter. “Do you have a car?” And God forbid you say “no” if you need that paycheck.

My 1996 Buick

My family doesn’t live a life of luxury. With two disabled parents (one, since my dad’s death) and 3 children, we weren’t the type of family to afford cars on our 16th birthdays. Or to afford drivers insurance, driving school, gas, or any of the like. In fact — my sister and I didn’t get cars until the respective ages of 21 and 24. It was the last gift our father got for us before his death. Even the cars we finally came to own are not ostentatious. They are 20 and 25 years old.

That being said, I’ve been working for years without a car. And I have very rarely been late to work. And yet somehow — not having a car meant I was not reliable. Employers believe public transportation isn’t reliable. Sure, it can certainly be a struggle. Still, hard workers like myself know to leave early as possible to prevent being late.

But employers don’t ask that. They don’t care if you always leave early to get to your shifts. They care if you have a car. And if you can’t afford a car — you’re probably not getting the job. And if you don’t get the job, you can’t afford a car. Especially if you’re battling debt, school fees, or living in a county where its already difficult to stay on your feet when you live paycheck to paycheck.

I have been denied job positions time and time again due to “unreliable” transportation.

Our classist society continues obscene practices which work only to keep the poor the way they are. There is nothing quite like seeing an interviewer purse their lips and jot down a note down while their face screams “low-class, do not hire.” Not having a car IS a disadvantage. Those without cars already face several disadvantages. Disadvantages that having a job might help them remedy.

Car-less individuals face difficulty shopping for groceries, or anything else for that matter. Especially when low-rent areas are more frequently food deserts. Because they have lower access to grocery stores or less ability to transport groceries, they are more likely to eat fast food, resulting in poorer health.

The lower your income is, the more you get screwed in job hunting, the less likely you are to move up in your socio-economic class, and the less likely you are to have good health.

“Do you have reliable transportation” is just one of the many ways that employers sort out “those sorts” of people. Some applications ask your suburb to judge your class and thus “reliability”. If your name sounds too black or ethnic, you could be tossed into the do-not-call pile.

It’s disturbing how unaware privileged folks can be. “Why don’t they just get a job!” “I worked for everything I have!” Impoverished people would LOVE the opportunity to work for everything they have. But the fact of the matter is that everyday-classism too often doesn’t give them the opportunity.

Support The Billfold

The Billfold continues to exist thanks to support from our readers. Help us continue to do our work by making a monthly pledge on Patreon or a one-time-only contribution through PayPal.