Could Your Dress Code for Leasing Agents be Discriminatory?

Lawsuits and media attention over applicants who were discriminated against are becoming more frequent and some companies are finding themselves in hot water. There are several areas receiving more attention such as sexual orientation and lifestyle, and it may be time for your company to conduct a policy language “check-up”.

It is important to remove any personal biases that could potentially interfere with the hiring process. The popular clothing chain, Abercrombie and Fitch experienced the consequences of failing to adhere to the law.

Samantha Elauf, who at the time of applying to work at the store was 17, was turned down for employment because her hijab was at odds with the employer’s “Look Policy.” According to the policy, “sales models” are prohibited from wearing hats.

The headscarf is worn for religious reasons, which is different from wearing a traditional hat. Guidance was still handed down that Elauf was not to be hired, because she was Muslim and the hijab was at odds with the company’s “Look Policy.”

Employers have a responsibility to uphold the law during every step of the application phase. This includes when the job vacancy is posted, all the way through the decision regarding who will fill the position. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) will not hesitate to investigate any complaints brought forward to determine if an applicant has been discriminated against, and they will also work to impose heavy fines and judgments on companies they have found to be in violation.
Keep your Human Resources department educated on the latest laws and trends. Employment laws are constantly changing and evolving based on the interpretation of the law from the courts, in addition to passing and amending new legislation. Don’t let your organization fall victim to non-compliance.  Your state’s Chamber of Commerce is a good resource when reviewing your policies.

Employers should also be on the lookout for trends seeking increased protection for individuals with criminal histories. The theory behind the support is that denying applicants based on crimes they have served their time for, and which do not directly relate to the job offering, is a form of discrimination.  This is not applicable to criminal records directly relating to the job such as a person charged with embezzlement applying for an accountant position.  This mindset has led to the institution of “ban the box” legislation in many states which deters asking applicants whether they have been convicted of a felony on the initial application.  Just one example of how the hiring process has shifted over the last few years.

It is recommended that when conducting pre-employment screening during the application process, you work with a background check provider that can help you stay compliant with these laws and regulations.  To learn more about CIC’s industry leading pre-employment screening solutions, visit  today.

By: Laura Mowry

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