February 27th, 2020

Applying for a job can be the ultimate test of one’s confidence, especially in light of a new study which found that employment interviews are more often given to candidates with current jobs or who were recently laid off, as opposed to those candidates who had been unemployed more than 26 weeks. In fact, many employers didn’t even consider jobless applicants, screening out their applications even before the interview stage.

Yet the subject of screening out applications can be a sensitive one. As a preliminary matter, the Minnesota Human Rights Act prohibits employers from requesting certain information from job applicants before they are hired. If an employer requests pre-employment information pertaining to an applicant’s race, religion, national origin, public assistance, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, age, creed, or disability, that employer may find itself subject to potential liability, save for a few codified exceptions.

Specifically, an alleged unlawful hiring practice may prompt an investigation by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. In addition, a job candidate of whom such protected information is requested may also bring an employment discrimination suit against the employer.

In addition, certain other inquiries from prospective employees may also be regarded as discriminatory because their impact disproportionately hurts applicants in a protected class. For that reason, credit checks that reveal protected information about an applicant’s marital status, age or public assistance history could amount to discrimination. Perhaps for that rationale, Minnesota passed a law in 2009 prohibiting public employers from including questions about criminal records on job application forms. Instead, public employers must wait until a candidate has been selected for an interview before asking that question.

Fortunately, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has issued guidelines for best hiring practices, as well as what information an employer may prospectively screen of job candidates. An experienced employment attorney can also ensure that a job applicant’s rights have not been violated, and hold employers liable for any unlawful practices.

Source: hreonline.com, “Is There Really Discrimination Against the Unemployed?” Peter Cappelli, March 25, 2013.

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