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Are Your Recruiting Methods Discriminatory

July 28, 1999
Related Topics: Discrimination and EEOC Compliance, Candidate Sourcing, Featured Article
autionary notes regarding some recruitment methods.

While none of the following methods are prohibited per se, employers should be alert to signs that the recruiting process tends to favor younger workers over older workers, or one gender, ethnic group, or racial group to the exclusion of others. There is no requirement that employers advertise all job openings rather than hire based upon word-of-mouth or walk-in applicants. However, employers may face problems when this type of recruiting results in an unbalanced workforce.

  1. Walk-ins
    Some employers advertise their job openings only at their places of business and only accept applications there. This could be discriminatory, depending on your location and work force. If your location is in an all-white or predominately white neighborhood, non-whites may be deterred from applying. If the employer is a restaurant or retail store catering to the young, older people may be deterred. If your workforce is almost entirely white, female or young, then walk-ins might be deterred from applying because they believe that they will not be hired if they are not white, female or young.
  2. Word-of-mouth referrals
    Again, depending on your workforce, word-of-mouth may present problems. If that workforce is, for example, almost entirely Hispanic, male or young, then word-of-mouth referrals may reinforce the non-diverse nature of the workforce and may be found by some courts to discriminate against persons who are not Hispanic, male or young.
  3. Referral fees and bonuses
    Some employers offer finder's fees to their employees (for example, paying $500 to an employee who refers another person for employment who is then hired and works for the employer for at least three months). This can cause the same problems as word-of-mouth referrals if your workforce is non-diverse.
  4. Employment agencies
    Some employers rely on employment agencies to screen employees. Employers must make it clear that agencies should observe equal employment opportunity laws.
    • In one case investigated by the EEOC, a Fortune 500 corporation hired an employment agency to find suitable candidates for a corporate "Manager of Cultural Diversity." Allegedly the corporation stated a preference for a non-white female. The employment agency called an EEOC district office, and encouraged EEOC investigators to apply. However, it then told a white male investigator that the corporation would not be interested in a white male and deterred him from applying. This action by the employment agency was found to be a Title VII violation.
    • Employers who knowingly allow employment agencies to engage in discriminatory activities on their behalf have themselves violated the law.

  5. Advertising
    Be careful about the language that you use; it could subject you to liability if it is found to be discriminatory. The following are examples of the types of phrases which should not be placed in advertisements:
    • "Recent college graduate" (potential Age Discrimination in Employment Act violation)
    • "0-1 years of experience" (potential Age Discrimination in Employment Act violation)
    • "Young, energetic" (potential Age Discrimination in Employment Act violation)
    • "Hostess" or "waitress" (potential sex discrimination in violation of Title VII)
    • "Christian carpenter wanted" (potential religious discrimination in violation of Title VII)

SOURCE: "Employer EEO Responsibilities: Preventing Discrimination in the Workplace; The Law and EEOC Procedures" by the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Technical Assistance Program. May 1999. (Revised).

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The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion.

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