Companies often take extensive measures to avoid litigation, particularly with respect to employment issues. In particular, as the number of employment discrimination claims continues to rise, employers should be on their guard from the very beginning of the hiring process and remain vigilant in implementing measures to minimize potential claims.
Discrimination in the hiring process occurs when an employer selects a candidate based on criteria other than the applicant's qualifications. It is illegal for an employer to discriminate against a job applicant because of his or her race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. Employers may not ask prospective hires any questions related to legally protected characteristics, including — but not limited to — race, age, sexual orientation, religion and marital status.
One way of reducing potential claims of hiring discrimination is with an online application process that does not ask for protected-class information. This "blind" application process allows employers to pre-screen applicants without any knowledge of a person's race, age or other protected characteristics. As a result, employers can avoid personal interaction with candidates in the beginning stages of the hiring process and restrict potential discrimination claims to those candidates who receive an interview. Employers must ensure, however, that the application website complies with accessibility guidelines and that exceptions are made for those candidates requiring reasonable accommodations.
Employers can also reduce discrimination claims by using the following techniques to keep the hiring process as blind as possible:
Use screening software to scan for pertinent experience, education and/or training.
Carefully review applications to ensure no discriminatory, irrelevant or nonessential information is requested;
Instruct applicants to remove all personal information — such as birth dates and graduation dates — from their resumes and applications; and
Have someone outside the actual hiring process review all applications for completion and make initial interview availability calls.
Clearly, the application process can stay blind only so long; once an applicant is selected for an interview certain protected characteristics — such as sex, race, etc. — will be obvious. But uniform use of a blind application process provides a significant benefit in that it treats all candidates fairly and helps employers choose the most qualified person for the position.