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Sticky notes = sticky problem: Keep ageist opinions off applications

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Hiring,Human Resources

By now, managers and HR reps probably know to avoid writing anything on applications or résumés that could be interpreted as discriminatory based on race, sex, religion, age or disability. It’s also unwise to attach sticky notes that imply bias.

Plus, never use photos to illustrate to managers the “ideal” job candidates you’re seeking. That will simply guarantee a discrimination claim from people who aren’t in that same race or age category.

Recent case: The EEOC filed an age discrimination lawsuit against the Texas Roadhouse restaurant chain, saying that for several years it encouraged managers to hire “young, fun” people for server and hostess positions.

The alleged smoking-gun evidence: sticky notes found on unsuccessful applications that included comments such as “old.” Plus, managers were sent photos of “ideal employees” for those hourly positions that depicted young people.

The EEOC argued that it was “standard operating procedure” to reject older applicants at the chain, which decided to settle the case recently for $12 million. (EEOC v. Texas Roadhouse Inc., U.S. District Court, Mass.)

Final note: It’s best to avoid any kind of notes on résumés or applications. In one case, according to the Troutman Sanders law firm, an interviewer once wrote “butter knife” on an application—his code term for “a useful tool, but not very sharp.” While that’s not discriminatory, jurors may not see the humor.

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