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4 discriminatory hiring practices will lure EEOC to your door

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Hiring,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training

Since 2007, the EEOC has been engaged in a major push to stamp out race-based discrimination in hiring. Known as E-RACE (Eradicating Racism And Colorism from Employment), the initiative’s goal is to “eliminate recruiting and hiring practices that lead to discrimination by limiting an employer’s applicant pool.”

Race- and color-blind hiring practices will keep employers out of the EEOC’s E-RACE sights, but plenty of organizations seem to have trouble with that simple concept. In 2008, the EEOC resolved 28,321 race discrimination charges, resulting in more than $79 million in payouts to employees.

When targeting employers for enforcement action, the EEOC often zeroes in on four recruitment and screening practices:

1. Limiting applicant searches

Employers that recruit from homogeneous sources—such as certain neighborhoods, schools, religious institutions or social networks—may draw the EEOC’s attention.

For example, if you usually recruit at a college with few black students, the EEOC expects you also to recruit at predominantly black colleges to reflect the diversity of the qualified labor force.

2. Screening by applicant names

The EEOC is on the alert for “name discrimination.” A person’s name often reflects his or her cultural or racial background.

Studies show that people who submit résumés and applications with names common among whites are 50% more likely to land interviews than those with names common among other racial groups.

3. Relying on criminal records

The EEOC has long taken the position that, unless consistent with “business necessity,” hiring decisions based solely on arrest or conviction records (as opposed to the underlying offense) are discriminatory.

An employment practice is considered consistent with business necessity if it’s genuinely related to job performance. So, if the conduct underlying an applicant’s arrest or conviction indicates that he or she isn’t suited for a particular job, you may base your hiring decision on that conduct.

However, employers may not simply assume that an arrest means the applicant committed a crime. Rather, an employer must give the applicant a chance to explain the circumstances of the arrest before making an employment decision.

Even in the case of a conviction, an employer must consider three factors:

  1. The nature and gravity of the offense
  2. How long ago it occurred
  3. The nature of the job.

This analysis is highly fact-specific. A conviction might bar an applicant for a job requiring him or her to enter a customer’s home or handle money, but not for an office job.

4. Using credit scores to screen

The EEOC believes many employers use credit reports to screen out applicants without justification. It has flatly stated that, absent business necessity, credit checks exclude too many black and Hispanic applicants to pass muster under Title VII.

Employers that rely on credit histories to screen applicants for positions with no financial responsibility must be prepared to demonstrate a specific, objectively reasonable business justification for doing so.

Historically, the EEOC has frowned on the recruiting and hiring practices targeted under E-RACE. But E-RACE represents a dramatic turn in the EEOC’s focus toward rooting out more subtle forms of workplace discrimination.

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