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How should we handle inquiries about age that we need to conduct background checks?

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in Employment Background Check,Hiring,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training,Office Management,Records Retention

Q. We require all applicants to complete a pre-employment screening form that asks for their date of birth. The firm that conducts our background checks needs that information to perform the screening. Does this practice run afoul of laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of age?

A. Inquiries into age may result in claims that older applicants were deterred from applying or that an employer refused to hire an individual based on his or her age.

Although Title VII of the Civil Rights Act and most states’ laws (including Illinois) do not prohibit pre-employment inquiries into age, the EEOC has expressly said that it will “closely scrutinize” this practice.

A better alternative would be to have the applicant provide his or her date of birth directly to the screening company or to request the date of birth (and conduct the screening) only after a job offer is made.

If those alternatives aren’t feasible, at least make sure the form clearly states next to the question that the information is sought solely for the purpose of conducting background screening. Keep the screening form separate from the employee’s personnel file or application papers. Do not make the applicant’s screening form available to people who have hiring authority.

Those measures will help avoid any suggestion that age was considered during any step of the hiring process.


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