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Avoid the legal risks lurking in your job applications

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Background Check,Employment Law,Firing,Human Resources

No single federal law governs job applications. Your biggest risk is asking unnecessary questions that run afoul of federal or state laws banning job discrimination on the basis of sex, age, race, religion, national origin or disability.
 All questions should relate to this central theme: “How are you qualified to perform the job?”
Important point:
Require every applicant to fill out an application, not just certain applicants. The reason: A standardized form completed by all applicants is your best defense against candidates who charge they were asked questions that others weren’t.


What to leave out
1. Date of birth.
In most cases, age is not a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ), which means birth dates are irrelevant.
2. Citizenship or national origin.
You can ask for such information on I-9 forms only after you’ve made a job offer. 3. Arrest record. You can usually ask about convictions, but not arrests. Some courts say arrest records discriminate against minority applicants.
4. Applicants’ height or weight. Unless height or weight is a BFOQ, these questions can show a disparate impact on women and minorities. Also, don’t ask for a photo.
5. Church or social-group memberships. Such questions could be seen as an attempt to ferret information about an applicant’s religion, race or marital status—none of which is job-related.
6. Emergency contacts. Unsuccessful applicants could allege that you asked for that data to figure out his or her nationality, religion or marital status.

What to include
1. General personal data, including the applicant’s name, address, phone number and Social Security number.
 2. Education and professional experience, including schools attended and degrees earned, employment history and names of supervisors, and military service.
3. Professional references.

4. An “administrative use only” section, where you can record test scores or other interview-related information for internal use. Remember: Anything written in this section can be used in court.
5. An equal employment opportunity statement.

6. A signed statement by the applicant that affirms your company’s rights. Specifically, it should: protect your right to verify information received; affirm your intent to fire employees who provide false information; make clear that no contractual relationship exists between your company and your workers (at will firing policy); and obtain authorization for any security or background checks.

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