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You Can Be a Victim of Employment Discrimination Without Even Working


We often think of employment discrimination as being something that happens to people who already have jobs. A woman may be denied a raise because of her sex, or an older person may be forced into retirement because of his age. But employment discrimination also happens on the front end of employment, when hiring decisions are being made. So if you are looking for a job, you need to understand your rights.

unemployment line

 (Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks/Flickr)

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“We Don’t Hire _______ in This Store.”

News station KXLY reports that a former employee of Red Robin, the national restaurant chain, has filed a lawsuit claiming that the restaurant discriminates based on race. The woman has made various allegations of discrimination, but one of those allegations has to do with discrimination in hiring. The woman who is suing says that as part of her job with Red Robin in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, she met with an African-American man who had applied for a job. She determined that he was qualified to bus tables, and she approved him for hiring. She claims that the assistant manager of the restaurant then intervened and said, “we don’t hire [derogatory term for African-Americans] in this store.” If these allegations are true, then what this assistant manager did was illegal.

What Are Your Rights When Applying for a Job?

Obviously, when you apply for a job, some forms of discrimination happen. For example, if the job you are applying for requires a specialized education, people without that education will not be considered. Employers may only consider candidates who earned certain grades in school, or they may only consider candidates who have a certain amount of experience in the industry. All of these things are perfectly legal and even necessary in the hiring process. But there are certain characteristics that most employers are not allowed to consider when making hiring decisions. These characteristics include:

? Age: Under some circumstances, employers cannot consider age when making hiring decisions. Under federal law, they can refuse to hire you because you are “too young” for a job, but they usually cannot refuse to hire you because you are “too old” for a job if you are at least 40 years old. There are exceptions to this where age may actually prevent a person from doing a job, such as age cut-offs for fire fighters or bus drivers. In some states, there may be additional state law protections preventing discrimination against younger workers.

? Race: Federal law prohibits discrimination in hiring based on race and ethnicity. State laws usually provide additional protections.

? Sex: Federal law prohibits sex discrimination in hiring unless an employee’s sex is a bona fide occupational qualification. One example of a bona fide occupational qualification would be where a fashion designer is looking for a model to model women’s clothing. It would be legal for them to advertise for female models.

? Pregnancy Status: The federal law prohibiting sex discrimination also bans discrimination based on pregnancy status.

? Religion: Federal law prevents hiring discrimination based on religion or religious association.

? Disability: Federal law prohibits hiring discrimination based on a person’s disability. Additionally, employers are required to make reasonable accommodations so that a person living with a disability can apply for, interview for, and ultimately perform a job.

? Gender Identity: Some state laws provide protections for transgender individuals. Additionally, there is at least an argument that federal sex-discrimination laws provide federal protections against hiring discrimination against transgender people.

? Sexual Orientation: Currently federal law does not protect people from hiring discrimination based on sexual orientation. However, there are state laws and local ordinances that may offer you some protections, depending on where you are applying for a job.

? Criminal Record: There are no federal protections for people with criminal records, but some states have passed what is called “ban the box” legislation. In these states employers are not allowed to ask potential employees about their criminal history unless they are applying for certain sensitive types of jobs.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you know someone who has been discriminated against when applying for a job? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Daniel Kalish
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