How to avoid claims of discrimination when hiring employees

Sometimes, negligent hiring activities are challenged in court because they are intentionally harmful. More often, however, these practices are the unfortunate result of inexperience, ignorance or bad judgment. Fair and inclusive hiring is a complex issue that every business owner and hiring decision maker must understand. Although the laws and procedures are ever-changing, these guidelines can help.


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  • embrace a diverse workforce
  • ensure equal opportunity
  • follow labor laws to the letter
  • standardize the interview process as much as possible
  • utilize a concise job application

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  • be ambiguous about your policy
  • get complacent with your hiring practices
  • overlook third party liability
  • show bias in job descriptions
  • let social media findings dictate your hiring decisions

Gail Tolstoi-Miller‘s recommendation to ExpertBeacon readers: Do

Do embrace a diverse workforce

A team that is representative of the local population is a vital first step in reducing discrimination when hiring. This goes beyond race, to include those with differing physical capabilities, national origins and genders, Beside gaining uncommon contributions from various groups of people with differing experiences, diversity inspires your work environment with fresh ideas and unique opportunities.

Do ensure equal opportunity

Companies should advocate for, and provide reasonable accommodations to those applicants requiring them, based on the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), to ensure equal opportunity in the application process. These accommodations can be anything from providing alternative formats for written documents to allowing service animals on site during the interview process.

Do follow labor laws to the letter

Every firm, from the largest to the smallest, should have a relationship with an employment attorney licensed to practice in that state and familiar with the laws on the federal, state and local levels. Every relevant hiring procedure and document should be reviewed for compliance. Furthermore, everyone on the hiring staff should be provided with diversity training and must understand the impact of discrimination in the hiring process.

Do standardize the interview process as much as possible

Develop a strict protocol to ensure that all candidates are asked the same questions. Steer clear of seemingly innocent questions/comments (such as, “What country are you from,” or “Do you have after school child care available if we need you to stay late?”) Document all interview Q&As to protect your firm from frivolous claims. If a candidate divulges unrequested personal details (for example, mentioning a pregnancy) inform the candidate that you didn’t ask for that particular information and it won’t be used in the hiring decision.

Do utilize a concise job application

Job applications should be as brief as possible. All requested information should be necessary to accomplish the functions of the job. The fewer extraneous questions, the less possibility for discrimination claims.

Gail Tolstoi-Miller‘s professional advice to ExpertBeacon readers: Don't

Do not be ambiguous about your policy

As an employer, you must post notices prohibiting job discrimination; your policy should also be detailed in your employee manual and every employee should be familiar with guidelines and punitive measures. Ensure that your potential employees know about your policies and answer any questions they might have about it.

Do not get complacent with your hiring practices

Hiring practices can always be improved. One of the key responsibilities for decision makers is to continually analyze and make improvements to a firm’s current hiring practices as they relate to discrimination in the workplace.

Do not overlook third party liability

If your organization uses the services of a third party staffing firm, it is vital to examine their process. Your hiring partners should follow your strict anti-discrimination standards as they are an agent of your firm and any discriminatory actions could be a liability to your firm.

Do not show bias in job descriptions

When writing job descriptions, develop qualification language that is inclusive to all segments of the population. For example, if a job requires lifting heavy objects, physical requirements (such as height or gender) should never be listed. Instead, the job description should state the weight and/or measurements that a candidate will be required to lift to qualify for the job.

Do not let social media findings dictate your hiring decisions

Tread lightly when researching candidates online. Don’t make judgments based on photos or personal information. Internet searches for applicant information is a valuable hiring tool, as long as the searches are conducted in a legal manner.


The American workforce has a growing awareness of their rights in the workplace, and lawsuits against firms are increasing annually. Hiring decision makers need to know the guidelines and best practices for fair hiring. By making this an organizational priority, firms can stay within the law and support the rights of job applicants.

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