Implications for Managers (HR)

In the recruitment process, the human resources department normally has primary responsibility for ensuring compliance with the mass of legislation and subsequent legal decisions concerning discrimination. Two kinds of discrimination are of concern to managers. Access discrimination refers to hiring considerations and practices (e.g. different qualifying tests, lower starting salaries) that are based on the candidate’s membership in a particular population subgroup and not related in any way to present or future job performance. Treatment discrimination involves practices unrelated to job performance that treat subgroup members differently from others once they are in the workforce (e.g. less favorable work assignments, slower promotion rates).

Ultimately, however, the human resources department must instruct and educate managers in the implications of compliance for their respective departments. Even job titles can be sexist and reflect de facto discrimination. For example, the job titles foreman and salesman are now outmoded. Many companies have replaced them with supervisor and salesperson, respectively. Managers do not have completely free choice in recruiting, hiring, training, and promoting people for their organization. Any individual or organization that fails to comply with the law may be reported to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for investigation or may become a defendant in a class action or specific lawsuit.

For practical assistance in interpreting and complying with equal employment opportunity legislation, managers can turn to the Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures, issued in 1978. Under these guidelines, organization practices or policies that adversely affect employment opportunities for any race, sex, or ethic group are prohibited unless the restriction is a justifiable job requirement. Thus, courts have found height and weight requirements illegal when they prevented employment of women and people of Hispanic or Asian origin and were not shown to be job related. There are justifiable i0nstances in which discriminatory hiring requirements re permitted – such as hiring only males to play male roles in theater productions. These are called bona fide occupation qualifications (BFOQs). Race and color, however, have never been ruled acceptable BEOQ criteria.

In recent years, a host of social issues are affecting both recruitment and management more and more. For example, a 1987 Supreme Court ruling held that the Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1973 covers workers with contagious diseases, a rule with wide ranging implications given the current concern over AIDS. Another controversial and important issue is privacy. The use of drug testing, AIDS testing, computer surveillance and even genetic screening by many companies has stirred fears among workers and others that employers are delving too far into employees’ personal lives.

Drug testing is particularly controversial,. Drug use costs US industry about $50 billion a year die to employee turnover and absenteeism, and countless dollars due to less reliable and productive work. Lives have been lost in accidents caused by employees under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or both. This situation has caused some companies to insist on random drug testing of employees. Such mandatory drug testing raises the issue of employee civil rights. Some experts predict that except for a small number of occupations, such as train operators and pilots, American workers will not be randomly tested. However, an increasing number of companies – IBM, American Airlines, Dupont, GE, Kodak among them are currently testing all job applicants.

Some companies addressed the reality of drug and alcohol problems at all levels within the organization in a way that employees perceive as more supportive. Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) provide confidentiality, appropriate referrals, and other support to employees whose job performance is impaired because of drug dependency.