Handyman. Stewardess. Policeman.

Young. Clean Cut. Handsome.

What do all of these phrases have in common? They can get you sued for big bucks if you put them in a job posting or use them for recruiting, hiring or promotion purposes.

Why? They’re discriminatory.

We’re not living in the Mad Men era anymore and you’re not Don Draper (at least, for goodness’ sake, we hope not). Sexist, ageist, racist and any other kind of -ist terminology is not tolerated in the workplace.

What Can Happen?

An Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) report shows that nearly 100,000 discrimination charges were filed annually from 2010 to 2012. Not all of these claims make it to court but attorney fees for claims that are eventually dismissed or settled can run into the thousands of dollars.

This television station learned this the hard way when it dismissed a longtime, beloved anchor and hired a younger woman with less experience to replace her in the same time slots. The case finally settled out of court – almost two years later. Financial details weren’t disclosed but you can bet the number of billable attorney hours spent on both sides added up quickly.

This line from a Worcester Business Journal article sums it up well: “Worst of all for defendants in employment discrimination lawsuits, they ultimately realize that the whole mess was preventable.”

Knowing how to stay on the right side of anti-discrimination laws will save your image and your bottom line.

Who’s Protected?

Discriminatory language of any kind is against the law, as are other discriminatory acts that may be committed against anyone in a protected status. You are protected from discrimination based on:

  • Race
  • Color
  • Gender
  • National Origin
  • Religion
  • Disability
  • Citizenship
  • Pregnancy
  • Age

Some states offer additional protection for:

  • Sexual Orientation
  • Weight
  • Marital Status

What Does Discriminatory Hiring Look Like?

Consider this recruiting lead we found on LinkedIn:

It’s headline screams: Gen Y – READ THIS – The Glenn Black Group, Northwestern Mutual is expanding it Gen Y team, lets talk!

This post immediately captured the attention of a master’s level Human Resources consultant. She wrote:

“Friendly tip from an HR consultant- you’re exposing your company to an age discrimination claim with a headline like that. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), protects individuals who are 40 years of age or older; including hiring and recruiting.”

To be clear, we’re not saying this recruiting lead is discriminatory. However, it is walking a delicate line as the consultant points out. Remember the terms at the top we said were NO-NO’s? Young. Millenials. Gen Y. Baby Boomers. Whatever age you want to recruit, just don’t be so blatant. It’s risky. It will open the door to lawsuits.

For other examples of inappropriate and/or illegal hiring actions, click here.

 How Can You Prevent Discriminatory Behavior?

The recruiting and hiring process is the gateway to your company. It says a lot about your culture and your awareness of the federal and state rules and regulations that you must abide by. Nobody wants to work for a company who consistently runs afoul of the law. Certainly, nobody wants to experience discrimination before a job has even been offered.

Here’s a few tips to help you stay on track (thanks to http://outright.com/blog/what-if-your-business-is-sued-for-discrimination/ and http://www.inc.com/suzanne-lucas/6-ways-to-keep-your-small-business-out-of-court.html for the tips):

  • Know your hiring practices. Perform proper background checks. Click here for a list of our services and solutions.
  • Create or review a policy manual that clearly defines discrimination, discriminatory language, harassment and any state and federal laws that your employees need to know about. If you’ve taken actions as a business to implement more protections, outline them in the manual. You might also want to find a way to make sure your employees have actually read the manual (a quiz, a team building exercise, something). This is an absolute must for ANYONE involved with Human Resources.
  • Think twice before creating silly ‘rules.’ Abercrombie and Fitch, anyone?
  • Implement anti-discrimination training for anyone in management or anyone who is deemed a ‘decision-maker.’ Ideally, this training should be done in-house and completed before any promotions take root.

What are some of your anti-discrimination hiring tips? Tell us here or in the comments below!

To learn more about what every employer needs to know about hiring, click on Alexandria’s post here.

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