Opinion
Equity & Diversity Opinion

Would Your Organization Pass this Discrimination Test?

By Emily Douglas-McNab — June 22, 2015 1 min read

This is a guest post by Naima Khandaker. Naima is a Human Capital Consultant at Battelle for Kids, and a Ph.D. student in Educational Psychology at The Ohio State University.

The Supreme Court’s recent decision in EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores Inc. offers a reminder that fair hiring is an issue requiring constant diligence from talent managers. While many organizations take great pains to ensure their hiring processes are legally compliant and non-discriminatory, the question remains--how effective are their efforts?

Take this widely cited study by Bertrand and Mullainathan (2003). To measure racial discrimination in hiring, researchers sent fake résumés--some with White-sounding and others with Black-sounding names--to employers in two cities. They found that White names received 50 percent more callbacks for interviews, and that applicants with addresses in better neighborhoods advanced further in the hiring process as well. Recent studies and numerous job seekers’ experiences support these findings, suggesting that even information typically considered “safe” or “neutral"--i.e., applicants’ names and addresses--can be susceptible to bias in the hiring process.

These examples lend themselves to an interesting thought experiment: Imagine that the résumés your organization receives are actually from a group of researchers conducting a study on employment discrimination. Would your hiring process pass the test?

If not, consider ways to identify possible risks in your current process and ensure it’s as fair as possible. This may involve reviewing applications to make sure no discriminatory information is requested; examining data to find patterns in the hiring process; improving training protocols for everyone involved in hiring; or employing online screening tools, “blind auditions” or similar strategies to ensure objectivity. Not only can doing so prevent costly litigation, it may also help ensure promising candidates don’t slip through the cracks.

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