“I don’t play favorites with people. My basic philosophy is that the only way to make the world a better place is by bringing something beautiful to every single person you run into at every moment of the day, so how can you play favorites with somebody?”, said John Zorn .
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is tasked with ensuring that all staffing companies accept this wisdom and adopt it in all transactions with the candidates they recruit and hire on behalf of clients. Eliminating recruitment and hiring practices that discriminate against racial, ethnic and religious groups, older workers, women and people with disabilities, is one of six national priorities identified by the EEOC’s 3 Year Strategic Enforcement Plan. Are discriminatory hiring practices increasing or decreasing? Is there an actual surge in cases lately, or are cases getting more attention? As an increasing percentage of the U.S. workforce elects to pursue temporary engagements, staffing agencies must increase their efforts to ensure that their recruiters are fair and unbiased.
Discrimination against some individuals is almost an occupational hazard when hiring. The interaction with the recruiter is bound to incorporate a subjective element, and choices are made based on such judgments. As clients stress the need for staffing agencies to find candidates that “fit” into their culture, recruiters will increasingly make assumptions regarding the candidate’s motivation and work habits. For some, it’s a slippery slope in which race, national origin, age or disability factors into the selection of the “best” candidate.
Take the case of Sedona Staffing which was fined $920,000 in six discrimination cases for failing to refer certain applicants to clients on the basis of attributes like race, national origin, gender, age or disability. The EEOC also required Sedona to retain an external consultant to review and revise its recruitment policies and procedures. The company was also forced to commit to training their recruiters in equal employment opportunity and diversity.
Most of the staffing agencies adopt anti-discrimination training programs and establish guidelines for their recruiters. In the best programs, recruiters are trained to avoid questions and topics that could bias a decision. However, Federal regulations do not require staffing agencies to compile data and report on the diversity of its temporary workforce. Without this information, the agency is less likely to spot trends that could potentially indicate discriminatory practices.
Many Human Resources consultants have published lists of “Don’t go there!” questions to be avoided when interviewing candidates. Obviously, you would want to avoid any questions regarding protected classes. This includes questions associated with one’s race, religion, gender, age, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, gender expression or identity, veteran or military status, and physical, mental, or sensory disabilities. In this digital age, remember that in many states it is now illegal to ask a job applicant for their password to any personal social media accounts.
To ensure complete objectivity, Staffing agencies must go beyond the explicit legal restrictions.
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