Hiring the right people to be part of your team can greatly affect your business’s ability to succeed. It’s an important process—and a tricky one! When considering job candidates, you need to be careful or you could find yourself facing legal problems. If at any point during the hiring process you don’t comply with the federal and state (and even some local) laws that protect people from job discrimination, you risk having a lawsuit filed against your company.
When hiring employees, you must comply with all anti-discrimination laws. Even an unintentional misstep can cause major issues for your business.
Job Discrimination Complaints Happen: Don’t Become A Statistic!
The United States EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) received 91,905 complaints of discrimination in 2016. That doesn’t include any charges filed at the state or local levels.
If you want to avoid becoming a statistic, everyone involved in the hiring process at your company should pay careful attention to complying with anti-discrimination laws through every step of the hiring process. This includes hiring ads, job applications, interview questions, background checks, and review of job candidates’ social media accounts.
All of the above and any other aspects of hiring employees need to follow the laws the EEOC enforces, which prohibit various types of discrimination.
Keep in mind that what I’ll share here is to give you a sense of what you need to consider and learn more about. You should consult a human resources professional and/or attorney for more specific information and guidance.
Be careful in wording your job advertisements so they don’t imply any sort of bias. A few helpful rules of thumb include:
- Use gender-neutral job titles. (Such as “sales representative” rather than “salesman” and “server” over “waitress”)
- Avoid mentioning qualities that might imply you’re looking for or avoiding someone of a particular religious background. (For example, “traditional values” or “clean shaven”)
- Keep age out of it. (Acceptable: seeking candidates with “fresh perspectives”; Not acceptable: seeking “young” candidates)
- Don’t mention race, unless you’re participating in an affirmative action program. (And in that case, phrase it so that it conveys applicants can, if interested, complete a voluntary identification form.)
- Be careful how you present the physical qualities needed in a job position so your hiring ads don’t discriminate against individuals with disabilities. Use specifics when stating physical requirements. (For example, “must be able to lift up to 30 pounds” rather than “must be strong” and “requires ability to travel between office locations” rather than “must walk to and from office locations”)
This is just a sampling, so I recommend you do your homework and get a professional to check your ad for compliance before you publish it in print or online.
Many states and some cities have set their own employment discrimination laws, which expand on the provisions of federal laws.
For example, “ban the box” legislation exists to help prevent criminal records from eliminating qualified applicants from being asked to a job interview.
To date, over half of the states in the U.S. have adopted ban the box laws, which outlaw questions like “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” and similar questions on job applications.
Also, keep your eyes and ears open about interest in legislation requiring removal of salary history questions from job applications. In January 2018, Massachusetts will be the first state to implement that law and other states and cities are considering similar legislation.
Job Interview Questions
As an employer, it’s important to recognize job interview questions that are illegal. You and anyone else on your team who will interview candidates needs to carefully formulate the questions you ask and take care not to overstep any legal bounds during interviews. At CorpNet, we have a standard set of best practices for interviewing job candidates, so our staff has clear direction when meeting prospective employees.
Steer clear of questions that guide job candidates into revealing information about their race, color, age, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, marital status, disability, and genetic information.
Focus your interview questions on your candidates’ skills, behaviors, and work experience as related to the job position you’re interviewing them for.
When requesting financial or criminal background information, you must ensure you’re treating everyone equally. It’s illegal to only check the backgrounds of individuals you believe are of a certain age, race, color, national origin, sex, or religion or who have a disability or genetic disposition.
Review Of Job Candidates’ Social Media Accounts
As you well know, social media posts can shed much light on an individual’s personality, drive, and determination. As with background checks, you should have consistency in how you go about researching job candidates’ social media activity. Make sure you conduct your searches at the same points in the process for every prospective employee.
Keep in mind that the person you see online may not be a true blue picture of whom the individual is “in real life.” Rather than jump in and look at applicants’ social media accounts early in the process and unintentionally develop a mindset about the people you think they are, you might benefit from waiting until you’ve met them face to face. By doing so, you run less risk of being accused of selecting or disqualifying candidates based on characteristics like age, race, religion, marital status, etc.
With so many steps in the hiring process and points at which a slip-up could happen, it may seem intimidating to even consider bringing on employees. Take a deep breath! By educating yourself, seeking expert human resources and legal guidance, and putting procedures and standards in place at your company, you’ll be better prepared to hire with confidence.