Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Electronic age discrimination?

From the inbox, a fascinating and distressing accusation about job websites and older workers by CNBC's Bob Sullivan (emphasis mine): 
Older Americans struggling to overcome age discrimination while looking for work face a new enemy: their computers. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan recently opened a probe into allegations that ageism is built right into the online software tools that millions of Americans use to job hunt... 
Age bias is built right into their software, according to Madigan. Job seekers who try to build a profile or resume can find that it's impossible to complete some forms because drop-down menus needed to complete tasks don't go back far enough to let older applicants fill them out. For example, one site's menu options for "years attended college" stops abruptly at 1956. That could prevent someone in their late 70s from filling out the form. 
Madigan's office said it found one example that only accommodated those who had attended school after 1980, "barring anyone who is older than 52." Other sites used dates ranging from 1950 to 1970 as cutoffs, her office said. 
"Today's workforce includes many people working in their 70s and 80s," Madigan said. "Barring older people from commonly used job search sites because of their age is discriminatory and negatively impacts our economy." 
The Illinois' Civil Rights Bureau has opened a probe into potential violations of the Illinois Human Rights Act and the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Madigan's office has sent inquiry letters to six top jobs sites: Beyond.com, CareerBuilder, Indeed Inc., Ladders Inc., Monster Worldwide Inc. and Vault.
I presume that all of these companies will promptly change their interfaces, and then allow employers to filter out older employees via another sub rosa electronic approach. 

14 comments:

  1. I think in Europe its common to include a small photo of oneself on one's CV (dk 100% if this is true). Presumably this is a more effective way to discriminate against which ever group(s) on chooses?

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    1. Yes, I've heard this as well. I would not support a change to such a format in the United States.

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    2. People sometimes choose to do this. Do they require it in Europe? Granted, if everyone is doing it, it's tantamount to a requirement.

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    3. I've heard that this used to be common practice in the US for some things (in particular, country club memberships), but that this died out. Anecdote: the country club in Ann Arbor, had a box on the application with instructions to affix a photograph, but discontinued this after an applicant declined to place a photo, and wrote "I'm black--isn't this what you want to know?" in the box.

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    4. I believe that including a photo on CV is largely a German thing. I live in a Nordic country and here a photo would be considered very odd.

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    5. I guess photos still aren't allowed here but most people try to have a nice professional photo on their LinkedIn page. Almost as if people have a natural instinct to look at each other and form opinions.

      It's amazing how many things you can't do when you're afraid of being called a racist all the time.

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    6. I'm still a holdout on not putting a photo on my LinkedIn. I'm not going to make things any easier for some HR drone trying to find my Facebook page and dig up a 20-year-old photo of me holding a beer.

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    7. Ditto on no linkedin photo....though I've thought of putting up a photo of Daniel Craig or similar.....

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  2. When ever I run into this problem I just pick the earliest date on the drop-down and let it go at that.

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  3. Seems like it would be illegal to ask for dates like that, no? Having a cutoff seems like double illegal. That's gotta be a lawsuit waiting to happen.

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  4. I've found a lot of these electronic application systems to be poorly written and difficult to use, so I wonder if some of this is incompetence rather than intentional. It's also a pretty good red flag that a company will be bureaucratic - I've abandoned partially-filled-out applications if the experience gives me the impression that I'll be fighting a bureaucracy if I take the job.

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  5. No matter how old you are, there's always a place for you at (and in) Soylent Green.

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    1. Your molecules will have lifetime tenure!

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  6. Two years back, University of Arkansas Fayetteville, AR advertised a faculty position in organic materials. Their on-line HR website started the application process with a questionnaire asking (a) the name of university from which your doctorate had been obtained and (b) how far back was the conclusion of your doctorate. I have my conclusions about the justification for this practice, but would not presume anyone else's.

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