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5 Illegal Phrases You’re Writing in Your Job Ad

Illegal job ad phrases

Crafting the perfect job ad is tricky. It has to be bold and appealing to grab the attention of your next hire. And you need to make sure there is nothing unintentionally illegal.

Even the most well-intentioned business could make a careless mistake in a job ad and face a discrimination lawsuit from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The EEOC enforces federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of their race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age, disability, or genetic information.

Here are the top five potentially illegal phrases we see most often in job ads and why you should be very careful when using them, or ditch them entirely.

“Must have a high school diploma”

Under certain circumstances, requiring that applicants have a high school diploma can be a red flag for discrimination. If the requirement screens out individuals unable to earn a diploma because of a learning disability, for example, you will have to justify the requirement as job-related. In other words, you must be able to demonstrate that the assigned duties and functions of the position cannot be easily performed by someone who does not have a high school diploma.

“Ability to lift up to 25 lbs.”

Posting physical requirements for jobs are another grey area, especially when it comes to complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Words such as stand, walk, climb, carry, and lift may exclude individuals with disabilities. While these words may be necessary for heavy labor roles, office jobs usually don’t have many physical requirements. If you have any of these words written in an office-related job ad, you must be able to prove that these physical demands are an essential duty of the position and cannot be tasked out to another employee or otherwise reasonably accommodated.

“Only college students need apply”

Using the word “student” or “recent graduate” in a job advertisement implies that you’re only looking for applicants within a certain age range. The EEOC prohibits age discrimination against individuals aged 40 and over. Unless you’re running a work-study program at a university, there probably isn’t a good, legal reason you have to limit your applicant selection.

If your desire for college students stems from their schedule flexibility, then clearly outline and specify the work schedule requirements of the position.

“Great opportunity for stay-at-home moms!”

Stating that a role is perfect for someone of a certain family status such as stay-at-home moms or bachelors can hint that these individuals would be given preference over anyone else. Marital status and number of children should not negatively impact an applicant, or even be a consideration during the hiring process. If you’re hiring for a position that requires the employee to work part-time hours remotely, state that. Applicants can then take this into consideration before applying.

“Waitress wanted for a full-time position”

At first glance this statement seems innocent enough, until you consider that the job title is gender specific. The same goes for steward/stewardess and policeman/policewoman. The law prohibits sex-based discrimination when it comes to any aspect of employment, including hiring, unless it’s a bona fide occupational qualification (BFOQ). Swap out these discriminatory terms with gender neutral terms such as wait staff or server, flight attendant, or police officer.

Have a question for one of our HR experts? To learn more about this issue or to schedule a free consultation on the advantages of human resources outsourcing, contact simplicityHR.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Readers should first consult their attorney, accountant or adviser before acting upon any information in this article.
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