Diversity Hiring and the Law
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recommends that all hiring processes should be done without regard to race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age or disability. All factors being equal between candidates, hiring for diversity can tilt the decision, and that is legitimate and legal. Issues can arise when there is a substantial difference in qualifications, yet the less qualified candidate is chosen solely because of diversity status. Legal issues with Title VII and the EEOC can also arise when organizations move from legally tailoring recruiting efforts to encourage members of one group to apply, to only recruiting or hiring from that group for a position. Focusing too much on diversity can make others feel excluded, or worse, discriminated against.
The bottom-line objectives should be a workforce that is representative of the at-large community and one in which all employees feel they belong and have equal opportunities. To that end, the hiring process must be free of biases in the sourcing, screening, and interviewing processes that could discriminate against or discourage qualified minority candidates from proceeding. The cumulative project of building diversity within an organization must be undertaken fairly and intelligently, so as not to open your organization to discrimination liability.
With recent discrimination and reverse discrimination cases making headlines, it’s clear many employers have opened themselves to unnecessary risks. These are generally more fair methods for building a diverse workforce:
- Attract Diversity with an Inclusive Culture – Diverse staffs attract diverse candidates, but only if the culture of diversity and inclusion is transparent to outsiders. Fortunately, social media platforms, as well as career websites including LinkedIn and Glassdoor afford an ideal opportunity to promote the values of diversity, and to showcase your diversity through pictures and videos.
- Keep Networking and Interviewing – Human resources should continuously network and build industry relationships so that when positions open, sourcing diverse and qualified candidates is easier.
- Be Cognizant of Language in Job Descriptions – Studies have shown that subtle nuances in language can attract or deter candidates of particular groups. For example, too many masculine words like “dominate” and “challenge” can deter women.
- Approach Diversity as a Consideration in a Hire – Diversity considerations may be a deciding factor among otherwise equal candidates, but they should not be used as a sole or primary determinant. All things being equal, courts tend to uphold employers’ decisions to hire a qualified candidate who adds to team diversity.
- Work with Organizations that Work with Underrepresented Groups – Associations and recruiting agencies that are known to work with and help members of minority groups can be indispensable in searches for qualified candidates.
- Conduct a Diversity Hiring Audit of Your Process – Have an independent auditor assess bottlenecks in your hiring process. Are you having problems sourcing diverse candidates, or are they not making it through the process?
- Encourage Referrals Among Minority Workers – People tend to recruit actively within their community networks, and this is seen with both gender and race groups. Be sure to monitor which employees are referring others and how they were incentivized to do so, in order to make continuous incremental improvements using this method.
- Promote the Values of Diversity – Referrals from diverse employees tend to rise when these employees can promote a culture of diversity and inclusion to others in their professional networks. This also encourages members of majority populations to reach out to qualified members of minority populations for referrals.
- Offer Work Flexibility to Attract Candidates from Near and Far – Often, an employer’s location is the culprit for a non-diverse workforce. Managers may be tempted to hire the candidate with the shortest commute, and this can interfere with diversity initiatives. To counter the pragmatic concern of hiring candidates who may ultimately leave because of a frustrating commute, consider offering the flexibility of working from home, or different hours to avoid peak traffic.
- Build Diversity into Mentor Programs – These programs help to facilitate individual career advancement and hiring from within. Mentorship can build bridges between groups, leading to a more integrated workforce, and one in which individuals learn through professional relationships to appreciate the value of diversity.
Workplace diversity will continue to be a top priority for businesses in 2019. As your organization implements these methods, be sure to monitor and keep data on their effects. The more you learn about what works well (given the unique variables of your business), the quicker you can attain your diversity goals.