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Recruiting Within the Boundaries of Equal Opportunity Employment Law

Recruiting Within the Boundaries of Equal Opportunity Employment Law
© Minerva Studio / Fotolia

Finding that perfect candidate in an endless sea of applications can be difficult. The majority of recruiters already have an ideal person in mind when seeking out applicants. Of course, a physician recruiter or healthcare human resources professional needs to base his or her decisions on the candidates’ qualifications and experience rather than age, gender, or ethnicity. However, there is a very thin line between having a mental image of who is a perfect fit for the job and outright discrimination. It is crucial that healthcare recruiters understand how personal bias (or the employer’s bias) can lead to some dangerous hiring techniques that could leave them not only open to litigation, but also pass over heaps of well-qualified applicants.

General Hiring Rules

The federal rules to prevent hiring discrimination are known as the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Laws in which the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces and provides regulation oversight. The federal EEO rules prohibit employment discrimination (including hiring) based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Every recruiter is (or should be) very familiar with these federal laws. However, there are certain ambiances that can accompany these regulations that can lead to dangerous territory.

Advertising a Job Opening

When you are looking for candidates, you must remain fair, equal, and open. Of course your search will focus on finding qualified candidates, but it cannot favor one race, gender, ethnicity, or religion. For example, if you are looking for a physician assistant, you cannot only advertise the job opening at a men’s social club. An OBGYN office cannot only accept applications from female candidates. You must give all genders, races, and ethnicities the opportunity to apply. Many recruiters open an invitation for a general pool of applicants in addition to seeking out specific qualified candidates that fit the criteria an employer is looking for. This is one of the best ways that you can seek specific candidates as well as provide opportunities for a diverse range of applicants. Posting an online invitation to apply is a great way to show that you are open to a wide range of candidates.

Choosing a Candidate

When you are sifting through the many resumes you receive, you must look at each of them objectively. In recent studies, many physicians feel they were impacted by hiring discrimination due to age, gender, or because they attended a foreign medical school. Be cautious when approaching resumes to judge each with a logical eye. It is important not to discount an applicant due to factors that may be interpreted as discriminatory. For example, saying an applicant has “too much experience” can lead to an insinuation of age discrimination. Preferring physicians who are “local” can be interpreted as blatant discrimination against foreigners. As a recruiter, you need to be hyper aware not only about your own interpretation of an applicant’s characteristics, but also how your conclusions about them could be interpreted by others. This awareness and sensitivity is what will help you avoid discrimination, and by default, future litigation.

The Social Media Danger Zone

More and more recruiters are turning to social media as a method of scoping out potential candidates. While sites like LinkedIn can be a great resource to find qualified candidates, it also displays a photo and other personal information, which can be used to identify age, race, ethnicity, or religion. This information cannot be used for the hiring process but sometimes is inadvertently used as part of the deciding factor anyway. The EEOC has updated its regulations to account for this issue by prohibiting any acquisition of “genetic information” through social media that could be used for hiring practices. So how can an employer or recruiter use social media without risking discrimination? Here is how:

  • Hire a recruiter to screen applicants through social media sites.
  • Instruct the recruiter to scrub all personal information, leaving only pertinent experience and other qualifications.
  • Have a separate team make hiring decisions based on the scrubbed information.
  • Have this process documented and integrated into the hiring SOP for your recruitment or hiring office.

While hiring a third party recruiter isn’t mandatory, it is a great way to set up proven safeguards that you can cite if you are accused of discriminatory hiring. It is important that employers create their own unique methods to avoid prohibited and discriminatory hiring practices. This practice will help to protect your hospital or business from costly litigation and also continues to promote fair and equal hiring in the medical field.

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About Rachel Ragosa

Rachel Ragosa is an attorney and freelance writer based in San Diego, CA. With experience in family, civil, and business matters, she provides a unique prospective on a variety of topics that impact the healthcare community.