The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
The worldwide lockdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic have caused an unprecedented economic turmoil that has greatly impacted billions of employees’ health and well-being. From job losses and displacements to lack of financial security and indebtedness, the reduction in economic activity poses a myriad of complex challenges for today’s workers.
Illegal Recruitment Amid the Pandemic
As displaced workers search for new jobs and alternative means of livelihood, this vulnerable population became easy targets of unscrupulous individuals who resort to illegal recruitment schemes.
It turns out that not even the pandemic could stop illegal recruiters who have found various ways to move their operations to the digital landscape. Time and again, authorities have warned employees against falling prey to these illicit attempts that take advantage of those in dire need of jobs.
In this rapidly-changing recruitment context, there is an enhanced risk of abuse. Employers and employees alike must then have a deeper understanding of how illegal job recruitment tactics work and explore all measures to ensure that the hiring process remains legal, safe, and fair. Here’s what you need to know about these malicious schemes so you can effectively avoid and report them.
Illegal Recruitment Schemes You Need to Watch Out For
Stakeholders must keep in mind that the laws governing discrimination play an essential role at every stage of the recruitment and selection process. From every job advertisement you release or post online to the actual interviews and decision-making, the laws enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) must be followed.
In simple terms, the law states that it is illegal to discriminate against an applicant or employee based on the following factors: race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information.
Discrimination in Job Ads
When reviewing job advertisements—whether a traditional newspaper ad or online job boards, websites, and social media—watch out for wording that indicates preferences for specific qualities like age and gender. Age- and gender-based discrimination is illegal and has serious consequences.
For example, a hiring ad that says it is looking for “able-bodied males” or “young and recent college graduates,” even if the work does not strictly necessitate the specified groups of people, may discourage women or people over 40 years old from applying. Such violates the law.
Employers must be careful about the demographic characterizations and see to it that the wording and context fully comply with every discrimination law. Even if an employer has good intentions about making preferences, it could still warrant a violation because stating a preferred age, gender, or race might break equal employment law.
Reliance on Word-of-Mouth Recruitment
Employers and recruiters should strive for a diverse workforce that thrives on ethical and responsible practices. The purpose of fostering equality in the workplace will be defeated if recruiters rely solely on word-of-mouth recruitment.
Although this recruitment method can be efficient, it is discouraged because it can lead to discrimination claims, especially when it is the primary recruitment method used in a non-diverse workforce. Overly relying on word-of-mouth can create barriers to equal employment opportunities and hiring minorities.
Stakeholders—particularly job candidates and everyone involved in Human Resources—must understand that certain specific details and information cannot be asked to applicants during interviews. Many interview questions seem harmless from the get-go, but they can actually lead to legal problems for the employer.
Even if it was not the intention to discriminate, there is a variety of ways by which an employer can asks questions that may open doors to allegations of discrimination. That’s why it’s essential for hiring personnel to know where to draw the line and what they can and can’t ask. Generally, interview questions become illegal if they violate an applicant’s protected status or privacy rights.
It is unlawful to ask questions directly or indirectly related to an applicant’s race or color, religion, national origin or ancestry, disability, medical history, or health conditions. Inquiries relating to pregnancy and children, marital status, a spouse or spouse’s employment or salary, and names and relationships of people living with the applicant are also unethical and illegal.
When crafting interview questions, the hiring staff should focus on details relevant to the job requirements to help them determine if the candidate meets the criteria for a particular position. Avoid asking questions that are too personal because these may lead to judgments and discriminatory remarks.
Discrimination in Pre-Employment Tests, Background Checks, and Screening
Employers may require background checks to obtain information that can guide them in making strategic decisions when hiring. But they must be careful to avoid stereotyping when engaging in decisions that involve recruitment.
More often than not, stakeholders are unaware of their biases and stereotypes. It is always best to consider discrimination rules and thoroughly assess whether your hiring decision is based on stereotypes or assumptions about a person’s race, sex, religion, national origin, and other protected status.
In the same way, stakeholders must always exercise extreme caution when undergoing screening procedures or requiring job applications to take a test. It is best to consider if any of a company’s recruiting and screening practices can cause a disparity between various protected groups or may exclude people of a particular race, color, religion, sex, or national origin and applicants with disabilities. For each screening practice or requirement, stakeholders must provide substantial documented evidence that it is job-related and consistent with the business’s needs.
Know the Dos and Don’ts
Both employers and employees need to be fully aware of what constitutes prohibited or illegal recruitment activities. Employers can get ahead by seeking advice and recruiting tips from experts who can guide you towards crafting hiring processes and policies compliant with the law. Employees, meanwhile, need to be cautious of where they get their job openings and spot the advertisement for red flags before jumping on the opportunity.
Setting up standardized recruiting processes and regularly auditing hiring practices for possible disparities and discrimination can go a long way. Such practices will ensure that companies not only attract the best talent but also prevent involvement in discrimination lawsuits.
About the Author
Experienced Marketing Specialist at Shegerian & Associates with a demonstrated history of working in the law practice industry. Skilled in Business Process, Negotiation, Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Management, and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO). Strong marketing professional with a Strategic Marketing focused in Marketing from Panamerican Consulting Group and Universidad Rafael Landivar.