can you hire the most qualified person for the job while avoiding
unlawful discrimination and treating all applicants fairly and without
prejudice? By being aware of some “Dos and Don’ts” for interview
techniques and inquiries.
Discrimination in hiring practices is illegal in Iowa. It is against the
law to discriminate on the basis of sex, race, color, creed, religion,
national origin and age. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
requires private employers with 15 or more employees to ensure equal
employment opportunities to persons with mental and physical
disabilities. The Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires government
contractors and subcontractors to do the same while making “reasonable
accommodations” for a person's disabilities.
Following is a short list of some questions that are considered
discriminatory, and should be avoided:
Age. The Age Discrimination in
Employment Act prohibits age discrimination against persons aged 40
and older. The Iowa Civil Rights Act goes a step farther by
prohibiting discrimination against persons aged 18 and older.
Arrests. An arrest is no indication
of guilt. Requesting such information can discourage minority
applicants and is, therefore, illegal. If you ask about convictions,
make sure the question is accompanied by a statement that a
conviction will not necessarily disqualify the applicant from hire.
Availability to work on weekends
and evenings. This is acceptable if asked of all applicants, and it
is a business necessity for the person to be available to work at
Citizenship, birthplace and
national origin. The fair and advisable way to obtain is information
is to ask: “Are you EITHER a U.S. citizen or an alien authorized to
work in the United States?” The “yes” or “no” answer provides all
needed information without disclosing if the applicant is a citizen
or an alien.
Creed or religion. Not acceptable
unless religion is a bona fide occupational qualification.
Credit records. Not acceptable
unless job related.
Disability. It is acceptable to ask
if the applicant can perform the essential functions of the job with
or without reasonable accommodation. Make sure you have identified
and provided the applicant with those essential functions before you
ask the question.
Family status. Acceptable only when
determining if the applicant has responsibilities or commitments
that would interfere with work schedules and, if asked of all
applicants regardless of gender.
Height and weight. Not acceptable
unless job related.
Language. Acceptable only if job
related. It is not acceptable to require a person to read and write
English if the person can be shown how to do the job or instructed
verbally. It can also be acceptable if there is a risk of personal
Sex, gender preference. Not
acceptable unless it is a bona fide occupational qualification
This is just a sample of issues of
which employers should be aware. More detailed information is available
in a publication available through your local Iowa Workforce Development
Center. Ask for a copy of “Successfully Interviewing Job Applicants.”
Detailed questions on equal employment can also be directed to the
Iowa Civil Rights Commission at 800-457-4416. The district office of
the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) can be reached at
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