Q. We don't ask applicants for their age or birth date on our application. But we plan to start conducting background checks on applicants whom we're seriously considering. The company that will conduct the checks for us said the birth date is on all the applications they see and that it's instrumental to conducting the checks. What should we do? —V.T., Wyoming
A. Our first thought is that you're using the wrong company to conduct background checks. Many companies conduct background checks without asking for a birth date. If you're set on sticking with this company, ask for the birth date after extending a conditional job offer.
It's not illegal per se to ask applicants their birth dates. But it is unlawful to rely on age when making hiring decisions. By asking applicants to disclose their birth dates after you've made a conditional offer, you'll effectively limit your organization's exposure to liability. And you should be able to establish that age wasn't a factor in the hiring process if you have good reason to rescind a conditional offer based upon the results of a.
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