Q. I was recently hired as the first-ever HR director for a company that has been in business for more than 40 years. While reviewing employee files, I was aghast to find applications from the late ’70s and early ’80s asking very inappropriate questions—the applicant’s political party, religious faith and even family planning goals. I know times have changed, and the company’s applications have been EEO-compliant for more than 20 years. But I worry that the company will get in trouble with the EEOC or other government agencies if the old applications are found in our files. Should I have older employees who filled out the inappropriate applications all those years ago complete and submit current EEO-compliant applications?
A. From our perspective here in 2008, it is truly amazing to look back at applications from even just 20 years ago and see just how much useless (and improper) information prospective employers sought. Modern, streamlined applications are a clear sign of just how effective EEO laws have been in focusing companies on asking their applicants only job-related questions. Certainly, applications from the 1970s and 1980s contain information that would practically guarantee a lawsuit if they were used today.
However, there is no indication that agencies such as the EEOC are looking to retroactively penalize companies that asked inappropriate questions decades ago. There is no need to change or update applications for your older employees.