Do we offer Equal Opportunity for Employment? | DCR Workforce Blog

Do we offer Equal Opportunity for Employment?

“Let me have men about me that are fat;
Sleek-headed men and such as sleep o’ nights:
Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look;
He thinks too much: such men are dangerous.”

says Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar – and continues the thought with a veritable tirade against that person’s inability to smile and other aspects of appearance and behavior!

Human beings are predominantly cognitive and tend to make decisions based on their perceptions. As per legend, the blindfold worn by Lady Justice is to represent objectivity, and a lack of fear or favor, regardless of identity, money, power, or weakness. But, research has established conclusively that pretty faces and the choice of clothing (and even jewelry) make a difference between doing time and dodging jail. This fact has spawned an entire industry of consultancy on aesthetics for lawyers, plaintiffs, and defendants.

So, what happens in an interview room which is another arena where people get judged by other human beings, though in a different context? How much of the outcome is influenced by the way we look? CareerBuilder set off to find out and determined that attributes like bad breath, disheveled clothing, piercings and tattoos ranked very high among factors that negatively influence one’s chances of finding work! But, the most alarming of such findings is from the National Employment Law Project which has found unemployed people are falling victim to hiring discrimination, so much so that having a job in hand is among the criteria for eligibility to apply for some jobs posted on job boards! This has led to the introduction of a bill introducing the Fair Employment Opportunity Act which makes such practices unlawful.

On an objective note, personal attributes can in no way impact a candidate’s capability to deliver good results on a specific job in any manner but are still taken into account when deciding someone’s candidature negatively. Many a time, the recruiters may actually not consciously be aware of the real reason behind disqualifying a particular candidate. The aversion could be rooted in an old memory of being mugged in a dark alley by some thug with body piercing or tattoos! Most people, like Shakespeare (or Julius Caesar), form personalized opinions and unarticulated theories which are then used to judge a person!

What are the implications of such actions to the employers who employed them as recruiters? After all, the law is very clear on Equal Employment Opportunities for all and when combined with the Fair Employment Opportunity Act – the need to have a clearly articulated reason for rejecting an aspirant becomes doubly more required. The time has come for re-training all recruiters to use fair practices in recruitment and be objective like the Lady Justice or face retribution from the long arm of the law!

It may be necessary to conduct special sessions where recruiters are encouraged to recognize and exorcize their deep-rooted prejudices and stereo-typed assumptions at the conscious and sub-conscious level, and approach all applicants with a genuine objectivity, which is the only possible way to ensure compliance with these laws.

The content on this blog is for informational purposes only and cannot be construed as specific legal advice or as a substitute for competent legal advice. They reflect the opinions of DCR Workforce and may not reflect the opinions of any individual attorney. Do contact an attorney for advice specific to your issue or problem.
Lalita is a people/project manager with extensive experience in operations, HCM and training and development across industries like banking, education, business consulting, BPO and information technology. She believes in a dynamic approach to life and learning as change is the only constant.