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How to Stop Your Hiring Managers (And Yourself) From Breaking Common HR Laws

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is responsible for setting guidelines for legal hiring practices. However, thousands of employers break these legal guidelines each year in their hiring process. When a case is brought to the EEOC, it can majorly cost your business. In fact, one Chicago restaurant operator agreed to pay $1.9 million to settle a race discrimination lawsuit filed by the EEOC for allegedly refusing to hire African-American applicants because of their race (QSR Web).

You may not think this could happen in your business, but take a step back and think about how much of the hiring process you control. Do you know the language that is written in your job descriptions? The process your managers use to determine who to interview, or the interview questions asked? All of these steps in the hiring process expose your business to legal risks.

In fact, some seemingly common interview questions are in fact illegal to ask during interviews. This is because seemingly innocent questions can infringe upon a person’s protected status. See below for a few illegal interview questions. Please note that this is not a comprehensive list.


1. When did you graduate high school/college?

This question is illegal because it can be used to calculate a person’s age. Similarly, you cannot blatantly ask an applicant’s age during the hiring process. Applicants over age 40 are classified as protected by age discrimination law.

For roles with a minimum age requirement, such as a bar, asking an applicant’s age and proof is acceptable.


2. Are you married?

Asking if someone is married may seem harmless, but select employers use this as a way to discriminate against those who may be starting a family and carry extra insurance dependents. This question may be illegal during the hiring process, but it can be asked after they’re hired.


3. Do you have children?

Applicants with children can be discriminated against due to the added insurance cost, employees taking time off to care for sick children, and other reasons. This question should be avoided during the hiring and interview process until an offer is extended. If an applicant reveals this information without being prompted, you must not use it as a decision making factor.

While this is not a comprehensive list of restrictions during the hiring process, one can see that there is a fine line in the hiring process. This is why using data to drive hiring decisions reduces an organization’s exposure to litigation.


So, the question becomes, “How can I reduce my risk of hiring-related lawsuits?”


1. Proper training for hiring managers

It’s important to have a formal training session with any management personnel that is involved in the hiring process. This may include creating and training them on a set hiring process that should be followed. From training them on phone interview best practices to which interview questions are illegal, be sure to include this all in the training. 


2. Deploying technology like Sprockets that’s approved and unbiased

Sprockets is an AI-powered, data-driven hiring solution for businesses. Sprockets’ hiring solution can be used for all positions and by anyone conducting the hiring process. From the owner to GM, Sprockets is easily used by all to make great hiring decisions. 

Sprockets is compliant with the EEOC, DOL, and The Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP). Deploying Sprockets reduces an organization’s exposure to potential litigation. 


3. Hold regular meetings updating managers with changing human resource regulations and laws

Regulations and laws pertaining to human resources are often updated or new legislation is put into effect. It’s important to stay aware of these changes and update your hiring personnel on relevant changes.  To stay up-to-date on employment laws and regulations, we recommend this weekly newsletter from SHRM


You work hard to build your business. Don’t let common hiring mistakes be the difference between success and failure.


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