What you can do if you suspect hiring discrimination

January 25, 2010 at 2:25 am Leave a comment

I have recently heard from several email correspondents who suspect they were a victim of discrimination in hiring — in both cases they suspected age discrimination in jobs for which they were turned down. Though I’m quite certain that age bias — and other types of bias toward certain types of people and against others — definitely exists in hiring, it’s usually very hard to prove that it took place in a specific hiring process.

In several recent studies conducted by RetirementJobs.com, between 80 percent and 95 percent of those surveyed who are 50 or older believe that “age bias is a fact of life.” Yet successful efforts to prove age bias in hiring — or discrimination based on race, gender or national origin, for instance — are few and far between. Not only is it difficult to show that the potential employer committed an illegal hiring offense by not choosing you, the cost in legal fees and time to prove such a case typically far outweighs any monetary benefits one might receive.

Still, here are some things to consider about hiring discrimination and what you may — and may not — be able to do about it:

*First, realize that you can’t usually successfully challenge a hiring manager’s authority to make employment decisions. Unless  you are a member of a “protected” group — among the key ones: 40 or older for age discrimination, a woman if you’re trying to prove gender discrimination, or a member of a racial or ethnic minority group if you’re trying to prove hiring discrimination based on race or national origin, or a person with a disability if you’re trying to prove that form of discrimination — you don’t have much of a chance at all. And even if you are a member of a protected class, unless you have hard-and-fast evidence (difficult to obtain) that age, gender, race or ethnicity played a significant role in why you didn’t get the job — and someone younger, male, or not of the same racial or ethnic group as you got it — your claim will likely not make it very far through the legal system. Most of the time, you may just have to let bias go and move on to the next job opportunity, as unfair as that seems.

*If you believe you were asked discriminatory questions by a hiring manager — for instance, for women, asking what their husband does for a living and what he might earn, for example, or if they intend to start a family soon, or for older workers how soon they plan to retire — you can take this to the human resources department of the company. Make sure you have specific notes of the conversation or interview, and especially the specific wording of the offending question. Though this likely won’t endear you to the employer, hiring experts recommend that if you believe there is discriminatory behavior, to alert their human resources department to it right away — even before you learn whether you landed the job. By alerting them to it, you may be able to push the company to give you a fair shake — especially if they believe you may file a complaint with the EEOC. (More on that in a minute.) Yet realize that you likely will have made an enemy of the person who asked the potentially illegal question and even if by chance you are hired there, the work atmosphere (at least at first) may be quite uncomfortable.

*Contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (eeoc.gov) if you believe you may have been a victim of hiring discrimination. The EEOC, according to its Web site, is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of a person’s race, color, religion, gender (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. It is also illegal to discriminate against a person because that person complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit. Most employers with at least 15 employees are covered by EEOC laws (20 employees in age discrimination cases). Most labor unions and employment agencies are also covered.

Even if you doubt you have a serious cause of action against an employer, it’s worth getting in touch with the EEOC as it tracks and researches potential patterns of discrimination and brings class action suits — sometimes suits that it has been researching for years. Here are links to further information on the EEOC’s site (in this case about age discrimination):

For more information, see:

*Finally, in this digital age and age of social networking, you may be able to check out  an organization’s record of fairness and diversity in hiring before you spend time applying and interviewing there. Among Web sites that review companies’ records is Glassdoor.com:

A free inside look at over 70,000 companies.

Company Salaries, Reviews, and Interviews posted anonymously by employees.

LinkedIn discussion groups are a good place to check out various companies and hiring practices as well.

*The Washington Post (and washpost.com) had a good piece this past weekend on how to find and snare good — and especially paid — internships. Though the piece had a D.C. focus (especially in terms of resources) the information there is applicable to college students nationwide:

Article | 01/24/2010

Homework and persistence can open up a world of internships : Well-researched and polished applications are key to edging out competition for positions

Vickie Elmer, K01 (Post)

Internship resources

K01 (Post)

…Competition for prime internships is fierce, and smart pre-application research can increase the odds of landing a good…

*As always, some good leads to pursue:

*The first, speaking of internships, is an opening for a paid reporting internship in D.C. (courtesy of journalismjobs.com) with E&E Publishing’s Greenwire:

Company: Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC
paid reporting internship
Washington, District of Columbia
Job Status: Full-time
Salary: Paid Intern
Ad Expires:
February 26, 2010
Job ID: 1144786
Website: http://www.eenews.net

Environment and Energy Publishing seeks a full-time intern for Greenwire, a daily online publication devoted to energy policy. The intern will be responsible for writing approximately seven news clips per day as well as original stories. Reporting assignments include covering hearings on Capitol Hill. Experience with energy and resources issues is a plus but not necessary. Interns are paid $450 per week and receive a monthly Metro stipend. E&E Publishing is a thriving subscription-based online publisher located steps from the Capitol in Washington, D.C. To apply, please send a cover letter, resume and three writing samples (published clips preferred) to deputy editor Amy Carlile, acarlile@eenews.net. No phone calls.

*(The hat tip on this next position is also journalismjobs.com). The Education Writers Association in D.C. is looking for an executive director:

Company: Education Writers Association
Executive Director
Washington, District of Columbia
Job Status: Full-time
Salary: Not Specified
Ad Expires:
February 24, 2010
Job ID: 1144385

The Board of the National Education Writers Association (EWA) is looking for a new Executive Director. The organization’s current Executive Director is leaving after leading the organization for the past 24 years.

For the past year, the EWA Board has been engaged in a process to determine the future of the organization as the journalism industry experiences its most significant structural changes in decades. The board seeks an Executive Director who will help complete the strategic planning process, redefine EWA’s service mix for those who write and shape opinion about education, and increase the fundraising profile of the organization. Specifically, the board seeks a person who understands the challenges, but also sees the opportunities in the media realignment. As new modes of communication, new ways to aggregate and distribute information, and new voices expand the dialogue about education, EWA seeks a new Executive Director to navigate these changes and create a strong, sustainable organization.

Qualities we are seeking: • entrepreneurial spirit • demonstrated leadership ability • collaborative management style • eagerness to navigate the changing media environment • excellent oral and written communication skills.

Essential knowledge includes: • deep understanding of the critical issues in education, from early childhood education to post graduate • familiarity with the current media landscape, including social media.

Relevant experience could include: • working as a writer, editor or journalist • running a small organization or company • hiring and managing staff • creating and managing a budget, especially one that comes from multiple funding sources • working with national funders, preferably those who have an interest in journalism and/or education • success at fund raising, especially from national foundations • developing and executing a strategic plan • running high-profile conferences

Compensation and Benefits: Compensation will be based on experience as well as the candidate’s combination of the qualifications listed above. EWA provides health benefits, a 401(k) retirement plan, four weeks of annual vacation, and two weeks of sick leave.

Deadline: The EWA board will accept resumes or CVs until February 19, 2010.

Contact: Please send resumes or CVs, with a cover letter expressing your interest in the position, to: Whitney Kent c/o Lipman Hearne Inc. wkent@lipmanhearne.com

No phone calls, please. Questions about the position can be forwarded to Whitney Kent at the email address above, and will be answered as received.

About EWA The Education Writers Association (EWA) is the national professional organization of education reporters. EWA was organized in 1947 by a group of newspaper reporters with the intent of improving the quality of education journalism.

Today EWA has more than 800 members throughout the United States and Canada. Active members include reporters from print and broadcast media. Associate members include school and college public information officers, writers who work for educational institutions and organizations, and other professionals with an interest in creating and distributing information about educational institutions and issues.

*Though I usually confine leads to those in the D.C. area, I know of a good immediate opening in New York for an experienced technology writer/reporter. If interested (or if you have a name to pass along) please write me a comment here (which I’d obviously keep confidential) or send me a message on Facebook, LinkedIn or to my personal email: jodifs@verizon.net.

*For those who still believe in the newspaper industry, the Newspaper Association of America, based in Arlington, has an opening for a vice president of communications:

Vice President, Communications
Newspaper Association of America – Arlington, VA
Communications oversees all aspects of Communicationscommunication officials.  The Vice President is responsible for developing and directing communication
From ASAE & The Center

*And finally, American University’s Communication and Marketing unit in D.C. is seeking a director of video production:

Director of Video Production
American University – Washington, DC
American University’s Communication and Marketing… of Marketing and working closely with the Video Editor, this is an excellent opportunity for someone to… $65 an hour
From EDUJobCentral.com

Happy hunting in this new work week!



Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

How non-journalists can help you land a journalism job How to use your personality strengths in a job hunt

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