Cap City Law - Attorneys for the Business of Life

Attorneys for the Business of Life

Is your company’s job application discriminatory?

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Is your company’s job application discriminatory?

If your current job application contains questions related to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, age, or genetic information, you could be violating anti-discrimination laws.
While there are plenty of job application templates you can find online and elsewhere, the open positions in your company may require special qualifications those templates do not address. On the other hand, perhaps you simply prefer a more personal hiring system that allows you to get to know prospective employees better, so you have created your own application.

If this is the case, you should be aware that federal and Washington laws forbid you from asking certain questions on job applications. To do so could result in allegations of discrimination, which might bring damage to your personal reputation as well as that of your business. It may also lead to a costly and detrimental lawsuit. It is a good idea to learn what the law says you may inquire about on an application, those questions that can wait until you hire someone and those you should skip altogether.

Questions that are off-limits

A job application is your first glance into a candidate seeking employment at your company. Of course, you will want to know if they are qualified, so it is reasonable for your application to request information about their educational background, skills, and special licenses. However, if these items are not relevant to the position they are seeking, you should omit them from the application.

It is always appropriate to ask when an applicant is available to work and what previous work experience they have, but you should not ask how much they earned at those jobs. The rate you offer should be based on the going rate for the position and not on the applicant’s pay history.

The following items could also cause problems on your job application:

  • Any questions that reveal an applicant’s protected class, such as race, age, sexual orientation, or disability.
  • Questions about an applicant’s physical appearance, such as height, weight, or hair color.
  • Inquiries into a candidate’s marital status, children, or pregnancy plans.
  • Requests for details about someone’s criminal history unless that information is critical to the job.
  • Requests for a credit history, which you can include in a background check after offering a job, but only if necessary.
  • Social Security number, which you will need after hiring but which could cause a security risk on an application.

The standard for any question on a job application is whether the information is necessary for making your decision about whom to hire. A person’s age, race, religion, and other classifications should not influence that decision, and some important questions can wait until you have already hired a qualified candidate. Oftentimes, an employer may have procedures in place to keep potential candidates anonymous until a review by supervisors can be conducted during the first round of resume reviews before proceeding with qualified candidate interviews.

Other employers utilize various platforms that will assess candidates before the employer even becomes aware of those who may qualify. While methods of hiring are specific to each employer, avoid pitfalls that can lead to claims of discrimination.

If your application or hiring practices have not been reviewed for compliance with discrimination laws, please contact Cap City Law at 360-705-1335. Our professional attorneys and staff are up to date on all of the current regulations to keep you in compliance.

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