Awareness of what counts as discriminatory behavior has grown a lot over the last few years. Most notably, this has been in the area of sexual harassment and gender discrimination. Yet, there have also been advances regarding awareness of age discrimination.
It is easy to make discrimination errors when advertising jobs. The fact that you might never have considered a phrase as age discrimination does not protect you from allegations if a potential applicant files a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission (EEOC) or the Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) about a job listing you post. Here are some examples of phrases that may be used to argue age discrimination:
- A recent college graduate: You are ruling against anyone who graduated more than a few years ago, suggesting you want someone in their early to mid-20s.
- With between two to three years of experience: Someone with much more experience in the industry may assume you are excluding them to offer a lower wage. However, they have as much right as anyone to apply. If they want to work for a lower salary, that is their choice.
- A young and energetic person: While that is what you might be looking for, you cannot write it. Besides, there are plenty of older people with as much or more energy as many younger people.
- A digital native: Most people would take this to mean millennial or younger because they “get” digital culture in a way that your grandad might not. Yet if Steve Jobs were alive and applied for a job at your start-up, would you consider him technologically naive due to his age?
As you can see, it can be a fine line that you have to watch when you’re making a job listing.
You need to put people’s age out of your mind when hiring
You may have a specific image and company culture that you want to promote. Yet, in the same way, that you cannot overlook someone for a job because of their race or gender, you must take steps to avoid excluding people based only on their age. Wording your job postings to avoid age discrimination may seem hard, yet it will be easier than defending against a complaint.