What Employers Should not List in a Job Ad

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Sometimes, when you read a job posting, you wonder if an employer can really exclude certain types of applicants. What can employers list in a job ad - and what shouldn't be listed? What are the rules, and when do the rules not apply?

Employers are prohibited from discriminating against job candidates by numerous federal and state laws. Employers should not include any reference to gender, marital/parental status, unemployment status, race, ethnicity, age, non-job related disability, national origin or religion in job advertisements.

What Should Not Be Included in a Job Posting

Employers can't screen out a candidate with a GED versus a traditional high school degree. Almost half of U.S. states prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. There are currently no federal laws which apply to this population. Ads for federal jobs, however, should not include reference to sexual orientation.

Job postings should not include information about unemployment or request applications only from people who are working. In fact, New York City passed legislation banning discrimination against the unemployed.

Seeking a Certain Type of Applicant

It is rare for an employer to blatantly violate these laws by saying something like "Only married men need apply." More common violations involve the implication (perhaps inadvertent) that a certain type of protected class of person would not receive consideration, e.g. looking for candidates with strong family orientation, or seeking applicants with a youthful perspective on social media.

In some cases, an organization may not list requirements, but may post a mission statement or goals that indicate that they are seeking a certain type of applicant:

Mission: To know Christ Jesus by living and then communicating the fullness of life within the family of God, the Church.

We are seeking married couples to work in our homes.

In other cases, employers promote diversity:

All interested individuals, including people of color, women, persons with disabilities and persons who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex are particularly urged to apply.

Women and men, and members of all racial and ethnic groups, are encouraged to apply.

Exceptions to Discrimination Laws

There are rare exceptions to these laws such as cases where physical requirements would make it impossible, even with accommodations, for a physically challenged person to carry out the job duties.

Religious groups can give preference to a specific gender, or those with specific religious beliefs if dictated by doctrine or strictly required to carry out the job e.g. Catholic Priests are all men and Lutheran Ministers are all Lutherans. On rare occasions when the connection of age to the job is very strong, employer may set or imply age limits in ads:

Age: Must be able to complete 20 years of service before age 62.

Enforcement of Discrimination Laws

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the federal agency charged with enforcing laws prohibiting job discrimination.

Related Articles Employment Discrimination | Examples of Employment Discrimination

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