Avoiding Discriminate Hiring Practices For The Small Business Owner

Being a small business owner can be both rewarding and overwhelming. According to a Gallup poll several years ago, over 60 percent of small business owners work over 50 hours per week. The typical small business owner must also wear many hats, as they haven't garnered enough growth to hire specialized employees. As such, they may find themselves being a salesman, the entire marketing department, as well as the human resources director. Human resources is more than just interviewing someone, hiring them, and collecting their W-4 and I 9. Human resources management also entails ensuring the company is in compliance with a huge range of federal and state regulations and statutes. And while larger companies have the luxury of an employee who handles the legal aspects of workplace safety, this is likely another human resources-related hat you must don. Workplace discrimination is generally not intentional, but inadvertent discrimination doesn't release one from the legalities. While the laws may be complex, ignorance of the law is no excuse if you find yourself on the receiving end of a complaint. Hiring practices can be especially troublesome. Every small business owner should take at least a basic Human Resources class, but if you don't have that opportunity then consider taking the free, online course offered by the Small Business Administration.

Here are two areas to be particularly aware of when it comes to finding future employees:

Job Applications

Your business is your baby, and it's understandable you want a new employee to not only be a good fit for the job but a good fit for the rest of the organization as well. Small businesses can be like small families, and no one wants a dysfunctional one.

The job application can be a legal nightmare if it asks questions it shouldn't. You may be curious to know how old an applicant is—it can potentially help gauge experience— but putting a box for their birthdate on an application is a big no-no. Marital status, religion, race, and even gender are just a few of the other questions that are illegal to ask of applicants. Job interview questions are similar. Even the casual banter to break the ice in an interview situation can be discriminatory in nature if you're not careful. For these reasons, it is best to comprise a list of standard interview questions, draft your application, and then have an employment attorney with discrimination experience go over both to ensure they aren't breaking any laws. Stick to the questions, be professional and formal, and save the getting-to-know-them-better period for after your employment offer. 

Job Advertisements

You wouldn't be human if you didn't have an exact idea of what you wanted in your next employee. After all, no one knows your business better than you. For example, you may feel the open warehouse position would be best filled by a strapping young man who is strong and quick on his feet. You know you can't specify you want male applicants, so you draft a newspaper ad that uses words like robust and active, hoping to narrow the candidates. This can be argued as discriminatory. The construction industry or other blue-collar occupations is an area to be extra mindful of. Yes, most positions in this career field may typically be held by men, but placing an ad saying "Attention Men: Now Hiring Carpenters and Bricklayers" would be a legal minefield. This is an example of a common mistake that is made without even thinking about it. The only thing that should be listed in a job posting are the experience, skills, or education qualifications required, and the job responsibilities and duties. Using the services of an employment or discrimination attorney who is familiar with the law can help you avoid any legal hot water in the future.