Startup HR: Interviews and Discrimination

February 24th, 2011 by hoha Leave a reply »

Let’s start with the compliance side of things and hiring. It is really all about risk management- how protected do you want to be and how likely are you to be sued.  You’ll never be 100% protected even if you’re doing everything right you’ll still have to foot the bill to prove that’s the case. It is all in how you decide to manage it-just don’t live in fear letting it keep you from doing the right thing or from your core business.

I’ll cover recruiting and interview sample questions later but first a word (post) about interview questions and employment law. If you’ve ever had any training in a company about interviewing discrimination has probably come up. There are various federal, state, and even city regulations that prohibit discriminating when making employment decisions (hiring, firing, promotions etc.).

There are protected “classes” (race, national origin, religion, age, disability, etc.) that vary depending on the law and level (I believe there is a city in CA that has an anti-ugly discrimination law). A lot of typical HR tools or methods, like interview questions, are used so that the company can defend itself against discrimination claims which can be costly.    

However, most startups will tend not to have issues with this because they’re looking for people who can help them execute instead of focusing on other characteristics that have nothing to do with their ability to do their job. That being said the other reason most startups tend not to have issues with this is because the laws don’t apply to them. That’s right you’re above the law or rather below it. Check your local laws but almost all the federal laws only apply to organizations that have 15 full-time employees. 15 is the magic number-If you’ve grown past that number-my condolences-you are now exposed to a lot more liability.

All is not lost though especially if you continue to focus on finding people to do the job. If you are already past 15 employees then make sure you don’t ask questions that would cause someone to think you’re considering one of those non-job related characteristics. The most common mistakes happen during the informal or rapport building part of the interview. Things like, “Wow, that’s an interesting name, where’s it from?” (Basis for national origin discrimination) or asking about family (possible gender or sexual orientation discrimination). You probably don’t want use or at least say anything that would indicate you use Facebook as a background checking tool.

Bottom Line: Just focus on the job and whether they can do it or not and you’ll be fine.


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