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A Guide to Equal Opportunity Recruitment

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Last editedMar 20213 min read

It’s not enough for businesses to make money. They need to make money ethically. And that encompasses everything from the sustainability of your products to the people you hire. Every employer should be an equal opportunities employer. Aside from the obvious moral imperative, businesses also need to adhere to state and federal compliance issues. Even the most fair-minded employer could do with a refresher on how to remain compliant when they recruit new members to their team.

When someone applies for a job with your company, they’re seeing your workplace culture for the first time. And what they see can speak volumes about you as an employer.

With that in mind, we hope you’ll find this guide to equal opportunity recruitment useful.

What is equal employment opportunity?

Just so we’re all on the same page, equal employment opportunity (EEO) refers to the fair and unbiased treatment of employees in your workplace. Employers need to create a company culture of inclusion and acceptance, and are legally prohibited from the discrimination against any employee (or prospective employee) based on protected characteristics. 

These protected characteristics include:

  • Race or skin color

  • National origin or ethnicity

  • Religion

  • Age

  • Sex

  • Gender/ gender identity

  • Sexual orientation

  • Disabilities / medical history

It is also illegal to discriminate against an employee or prospective employee who complains that they have been discriminated against. 

What are the laws around EEO that small businesses need to know?

A lot of the above is pretty much common sense. However, American employers must also comply with specific legislation. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the regulatory body that enforces EEO laws. These apply not only to your existing team members, but any other prospect who applies to work for you. 

If you have 15 or more employees or more, you need to be compliant with the following equal employment opportunity laws:

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII)

  • The Equal Pay Act of 1963 (EPA)

  • The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA)

  • Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)

  • The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA)

These regulations apply not only to the recruitment process, but to the training, promotion, compensation, and termination of your employees.

Equal opportunity recruitment dos and don’ts

Now we know a little about the EEO laws that we need to comply with, what might this look like in the context of recruitment? 

We’ve compiled a list of dos and don’ts that will hopefully help you to seamlessly weave EEO laws into your recruitment process.

When advertising

  • Do: Think about opportunities that the position could create for people who are underrepresented in the workforce.

  • Do: Ensure that the language of your advert could not be misconstrued as discriminatory.

  • Do: Advertise your job internally and externally. Place it where a wide range of people are likely to see it.

  • Don’t: Prioritize internal candidates or individuals recommended by existing team members.  

  • Don’t: Neglect to make employees on maternity or parental leave or extended absence aware of the role.

When shortlisting

  • Do: Ensure that every application is measured against pertinent criteria (i.e. your job description and person specification). 

  • Do: Make sure every member of your panel has a clear framework against which they can score each applicant. 

  • Do: Use this to make a fair and impartial decision about which applicant will go through to the next stage.

When interviewing

  • Do: Make sure there is a colleague or senior staff member present with you.

  • Do: Ask all applicants the same questions.

  • Do: Ask applicants in advance if they require any adjustments or accommodations to be made for them during the interview. 

  • Don’t: Ask any questions that pertain to the applicant's personal or domestic circumstances.

If you’re unsure

Embracing EEO is a key part of your corporate social responsibility (CSR). If you’re unsure about your EEO compliance in any facet of your recruitment process, seek expert advice. It’s always best to err on the side of caution. The Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972 gives the EEOC the authority to sue in federal court if they see evidence of unlawful, discriminatory employment practices. Expert guidance is worth paying for and far more cost-effective than protecting your company from a lawsuit.

We can help

If you’re interested in finding out more about equal opportunities, recruitment, or any other aspect of your business and its finances, then get in touch with our financial experts. Find out how GoCardless can help you with ad hoc payments or recurring payments.

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