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Employment Policies
bakemag.com, August 14, 2012
by Staff

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Under the laws enforced by the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), it is illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or employee because of that person’s race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. It is also illegal to retaliate against a person because he or she complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit. The following are important rules to follow when determining employee policies.

Job advertisements

It is illegal for an employer to publish a job advertisement that shows a preference for or discourages someone from applying for a job because of his or her race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability or genetic information, as mentioned above. For example, a help-wanted ad that seeks “females” or “recent college graduates” may discourage men and people over 40 from applying and may violate the law. Further, an employer’s reliance on word-of-mouth recruitment by its mostly Hispanic work force may violate the law if the result is that almost all new hires are Hispanic.

Application & hiring

If you require job applicants to take a test, the test must be necessary and related to the job. In addition, the employer may not use a test that excludes applicants age 40 or older if it’s not based on a reasonable factor other than age. If a job applicant with a disability needs accommodation (such as a sign language interpreter) to apply for a job, you are required to provide the accommodation, so long as it does not cause you significant difficulty or expense.

Reasonable accommodation & disability

The law requires that an employer provide reasonable accommodation to an employee or job applicant with a disability, unless doing so would cause significant difficulty or expense for the employer. Reasonable accommodation is any change in the workplace (or in the ways things are usually done) to help a person with a disability apply for a job, perform the duties of a job or enjoy the benefits and privileges of employment. Reasonable accommodation might include a ramp for a wheelchair or a reader or interpreter.

Harassment

Harassment can take the form of slurs, graffiti, offensive or derogatory comments, or other verbal or physical conduct. Sexual harassment (including unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other conduct of a sexual nature) is also unlawful. Although the law does not prohibit simple teasing, offhand comments or isolated incidents that are not very serious, harassment is illegal if it is so frequent or severe that it creates a hostile or offensive work environment or if it results in an adverse employment decision (such as the victim being fired or demoted). The harasser can be the victim’s supervisor, a supervisor in another area, a co-worker or someone who is not an employee of the employer, such as a client or customer.

Pre-employment inquiries

As a general rule, the information obtained and requested through the pre-employment process should be limited to that which is essential for determining if a person is qualified for the job. Information regarding race, sex, national origin, age and religion are irrelevant in such determinations. Employers are explicitly prohibited from making pre-employment inquiries about disability.

Although state and federal equal opportunity laws do not clearly forbid employers from making pre-employment inquiries that relate to, or disproportionately screen out members based on race, color, sex, national origin, religion or age, such inquiries may be used as evidence of an employer’s intent to discriminate, unless the questions asked can be justified by some business purpose.

Therefore, inquiries about organizations, clubs, societies and lodges of which an applicant may be a member or any other questions, which may indicate the applicant’s race, sex, national origin, disability status, age, religion, color or ancestry if answered, should generally be avoided. Similarly, employers should not ask for a photograph of an applicant. If needed for identification purposes, a photograph may be obtained after an offer of employment is made and accepted.

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