Question:

I am looking for work and find many employers are asking me to submit job applications online. One employer even asked for a video resume. Although I know we are in a tough economy, sometimes I wonder whether I haven’t found a job because of my age or because I was born in another country. What laws protect me when I apply on-line for a job?

Answer:

California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act and federal Equal Employment Opportunity Act protect applicants from many forms of discrimination, including age and national origin discrimination. These laws also protect employees from discrimination in recruiting and hiring.
The laws protecting employees from discrimination do not expressly prohibit the use of specific technologies or methods for selecting employees, and there is nothing that prevents employers from advertising on-line or requesting on-line job applications. In the U.S., 77.3% of the population are Internet users. According to one recent study, the use of the Internet by employers and job seekers has increased over 60% in the last 5 years.

In an effort to protect applicants from national origin discrimination, the U.S. Justice Department recently issued best practices for employers who post ads on-line or require on-line applications. Some of the best practices are:

  • Treat U.S. citizens, lawful permanent residents, temporary residents, asylees, and refugees equally in recruitment or hiring.
  • Implement equal employment practices, including refraining from discriminating on the basis of national origin, and/or immigration and citizenship status.
  • Avoid making the assumption that only U.S. citizens are authorized to work in the United States.
  • Allow all employees (including non-U.S. citizens) to provide any permissible documents to establish their identity or work authorization during the employment verification process.
  • Avoid the following language in job postings:
  • “Only U.S. Citizens”
  • “Citizenship requirement” (Unless U.S. citizenship is required by law, regulation, executive order, or government contract.)
  • “Only U.S. Citizens or Green Card Holders”
    “H-1Bs Only”
  • “Must have a U.S. Passport”
  • “Must have a green card”

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued an opinion last year stating that requiring video resumes does not violate anti-discrimination laws because a video resume is equivalent to meeting an individual during the application process and observing that he or she is a member of a protected class. The important step is what an employer does after receiving the information. The EEOC states that the anti-discrimination laws prohibit “not only decisions driven by . . . animosity, but also decisions infected by stereotyped thinking.” It is important for employers to make sure they are making hiring decisions based on objective qualifications of the applicant, and not conscious or unconscious bias.

Job seekers should be sensitive to questions asked by employers in advertisements and during interviews. A follow up contact with a prospective employer may provide information on why you were not selected for an interview or selected for a job. The Department of Labor has useful information for job seekers at
http://www.bls.gov/oco/oco2004.htm.

To learn more about discrimination in hiring, or if you suspect that you have been a victim of discrimination, you may contact the EEOC at http://eeoc.gov/laws/practices/index.cfm.
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