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 reflect salary history inquiry law, effective July 1, 2018.
Updated to reflect Spokane 'ban the box' law, effective June 14, 2018.
Updated to reflect regulations expanding national origin protections, effective July 1, 2018.
Updated to reflect salary history restrictions, effective October 6, 2017.
Updated to reflect law banning discrimination in hiring based on veteran status, effective October 1, 2017.
This How To details the steps an employer should take to reduce the risk of unconscious bias influencing its recruiting and hiring decisions.
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.
HR considerations about writing legally compliant job advertisements or notices.