When writing a job posting quite often the author writes it from their point of view. After all it is their job and their company, so why not write the job posting to reflect what they want? The problem is that the biases of the writer may become apparent in the language that is used in the job posting. Here’s how to avoid bias language in job postings.
What is Prohibited Job Ad Language?
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the governmental agency that oversees Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the protections provided for “protected categories.” On their web page entitled Prohibited Employment Policies/Practices they give some specific examples of how employers can get in trouble with language in the recruiting process. They specifically say:
“It is illegal for an employer to publish a job advertisement that shows a preference for or discourages someone from applying for a job because of his or her race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information.”
For example, phrases around origin, religion, and physical condition such as “American born,” “Christian values,” and “must be in good health” can (and probably will) get employers in trouble.
Examples of Prohibited Job Posting Language
These examples from actual job ads – give examples of some prohibited job postings language, and the reason why:
*3-5 years of related experience in Human Resources and Payroll. This implies that someone with more experience, such as an older candidate with more than 5 years of experience would not be welcome.
*Housewife. Bus Boy. Waitress. Houseman. Stay away from gender specific titles.
*Reliable transportation. Unless the transportation is needed to conduct the on the clock work.
*If you would like to be considered for our team of entertainers, text your first name, your height and weight, your age, your city of residence, and your contact information Height, weight and age are not requirements to be stated unless they are what is known as BFOQs (Bona Fide Occupational Qualifications). The EEOC takes a very dim view of their use.
In job postings it is important to keep your language job-related. Describe the work to be done and the work habits and characteristics necessary to accomplish the work. Avoid describing characteristics, especially physical characteristics, of the potential employee.
As an employer you are not only held liable for the your actions, but also for the actions of all employees involved in the recruitment process and for those people who are acting as your agents. You need good (and compliant) job ads. This means that any recruitment agency that is working on your behalf must also comply with the EEOC standards. If they don’t, not only can they have legal difficulties but those difficulties can be extended to you, the actual employer. So review and approve any job postings they are using on your behalf.
Mike Haberman is the HR Compliance Guy. He is a HR consultant and Partner at OmegaHRSolutions. Photo Credit PivotalMatters.