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How to discuss late hours without bringing up family obligations

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Q. We have a position open in our sales department for someone who will be planning and executing company-sponsored events, most of which would take place outside normal 9-to-5 working hours. Is there a way we can ask about the applicants’ family situations and make it clear that missing these events because of family obligations would not be tolerated?

A. Under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, family status and marital status are not protected against discrimination per se. However, your company’s employees and job applicants may be explicitly protected on the basis of family status, marital status or both by local ordinances, depending on where your company is located.

Even without a local ordinance, however, it could be considered gender discrimination to raise the issue of family obligations with a female candidate during a job interview. Rather than raising the issue of family obligations with an applicant, you should prepare a written job description that states attendance at events during specified “after hours” times as a job requirement.

At any job interview for the position in question, you should make it clear that attendance at such events is a requirement, and ask the job applicant if he or she would have any problems meeting that requirement. If the applicant responds “yes,” that person would not be an appropriate candidate for the job, no matter what the reason behind his or her affirmative response.

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