Overview: In drafting job advertisements, employers should not do anything to discourage members of protected groups from applying for openings.
This means job ads should steer clear of language indicating a preference for applicants based on their age, gender, race, religion and citizenship except for the rare instances in which such characteristics are a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ).
Advertisements posted on the Internet, in trade publications or other media outlets also should never discourage qualified applicants from applying based on disability, marital or military status as well as political or union affiliation.
Along these lines, it is important to focus on listing the skills and credentials that are truly essential. For instance, "college or graduate degree required" should not be included in a job notice if such credentials are not needed to perform the job well.
It also is a good idea for employers to state their commitment in job advertisements to a diverse workforce. As part of that commitment, they should make clear how candidates with visual, hearing or other disabilities can apply.
Trends: In 2011, New Jersey became the first state to prohibit employers from discriminating against the unemployed in print and internet job advertisements. Oregon and the District of Columbia have since passed similar laws and other states have legislation in the works.
The EEOC has questioned the use of "current employment as a sign of quality performance," and has suggested that the practice of screening out unemployed applicants may have a disparate impact on women, certain racial and ethnic minorities, and people with disabilities.
Author: David B. Weisenfeld, JD, Legal Editor
Updated to include state veterans preference law, effective March 22, 2017
An employer can use this checklist to ensure it develops legally compliant job descriptions to find the best candidates while avoiding discrimination risks.
Updated to reflect a law permitting private employers to grant a veterans preference in hiring, effective July 1, 2016.
Updated to reflect a new veterans preference law, effective August 1, 2016.
Updated to reflect the Portland Ban the Box Ordinance, effective July 1, 2016.
Updated to reflect forthcoming state ban the box law affecting private employers.
Updated to reflect Seattle's new notice and posting requirement under its Fair Chance Employment Ordinance.
In-depth review of the spectrum of Illinois employment law requirements HR must follow with respect to recruiting.
In-depth review of the spectrum of District of Columbia employment law requirements HR must follow with respect to interviewing and selecting job candidates.
In-depth review of the spectrum of Rhode Island employment law requirements HR must follow with respect to interviewing and selecting job candidates.
HR considerations about writing legally compliant job advertisements or notices.