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Require special credentials for foreign hires? Tell applicants

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Hiring,HR Management,Human Resources

Applicants from other countries or who were educated abroad pose special problems for HR professionals. For example, can you be sure their education and training are as good as that of U.S.-educated applicants?

One way to find out is to require a credentialing company to certify the applicant’s educational equivalence. But if you go that route, make sure you inform applicants about the requirement. If not, you may face a national-origin discrimination lawsuit alleging you discourage foreign applicants and use the lack of credentialing as an illegal discriminatory reason for not hiring foreign-born or foreign-educated applicants.

Recent case: Shadid Tanvir is from Pakistan and was educated overseas. He applied for a job with Quest Diagnostics, which declined to interview him after HR noticed he had not supplied foreign-education credentialing information.

Tanvir sued, alleging he had never been told he needed to get his credentials verified and claiming Quest’s rejection was just a pretext for discrimination against foreigners. His argument was that the company didn’t tell him so it could use his lack of the certificate as an excuse not to hire him.

The court agreed that Tanvir’s case should go to trial. Now Quest Diagnostics will have to counter his testimony with evidence it told him about the requirement—or risk that the jury will believe they didn’t tell him so they would have an excuse not to hire him. (Tanvir v. Quest Diagnostics, No. 05-1464, DC NJ, 2007)

Final note: If you want applicants to verify foreign credentials, include a statement on your application explaining the requirement. That way, everyone gets the notice, not just those with foreign-sounding names. Singling out those applicants may be national-origin discrimination, too.

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