Software at online job sites can block older applicants, Illinois attorney general claims

The earliest a would-be applicant using this tool could say he or she attended college is 1956, which could prevent someone in their late 1970s from using it. Illinois officials say they found this kind of built-in age discrimination impacting applicants as young as 52. In this example, a job seeker could upload their own resume, however.

Several major online job listing sites potentially discriminate against older job applicants because of age limitations built into their software, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan alleged on Thursday.

Menus that let users create resumes and profiles prevent would-be applicants from entering years beyond a certain date, in some cases prohibiting them from accessing important functions of the services because of their age, Madigan’s office said. The tools potentially violate the Illinois Human Rights Act and the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Illinois attorney general said.

In one example, “a company provided 1980 as the earliest possible choice for users’ education or previous employment start dates, barring anyone who is older than 52 from full use of the company’s services,” Madigan’s office said, in an announcement of the probe. Other sites used dates ranging from 1950 to 1970 as cutoffs.

“While the sites require job seekers to input dates of previous work experience and education, they only allow those born after a certain set of years to do so, excluding many older job seekers,” her office claimed. “These companies discriminate against job seekers who are working much later in life, discouraging many workers from attempting to re-enter or remain in the job marketplace.”

Madigan sent letters to Beyond.com, CareerBuilder, Indeed Inc., Ladders Inc., Monster Worldwide Inc. and Vault, requesting information about the companies’ practices.

“Today’s workforce includes many people working in their 70s and 80s,” Madigan said. “Barring older people from commonly used job search sites because of their age is discriminatory and negatively impacts our economy.”

In a statement to me, CareerBuilder called the issue a mistake.

“CareerBuilder is committed to helping workers of all ages find job opportunities, and is fixing this unfortunate oversight,” said Michael Erwin, Director, Global Corporate Communications and Social Media, in an email.

Beyond.com said it hadn’t heard from Madigan’s office yet.

“We haven’t received anything from Attorney General Madigan, but when we do receive the letter we will be happy to respond,” the firm said to me in an emailed statement. “We’ve worked with millions of job seekers, counseling them through all stages of their career on how to best position themselves for success. Discrimination has no part in the hiring process and that’s why we take such care to help job seekers (and hiring managers) carefully consider all information they put forth during the job search process to avoid any conscious or unconscious bias.”

Indeed and Monster WorldWide did not immediately return requests for comment. Ladders and Vault have no media contact information on their websites. Emails sent to their general inboxes were not immediately returned.

Madigan’s Civil Rights Bureau is currently examining these practices, her office said.

I’ve written a couple of other pieces about age discrimination, which can be difficult to prove.

The workplace discrimination epidemic that no one is talking about

‘Not a jerk for firing loyal workers’ column causes outrage, offers lesson in age discrimination

 

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About Bob Sullivan 1060 Articles
BOB SULLIVAN is a veteran journalist and the author of four books, including the 2008 New York Times Best-Seller, Gotcha Capitalism, and the 2010 New York Times Best Seller, Stop Getting Ripped Off! His latest, The Plateau Effect, was published in 2013, and as a paperback, called Getting Unstuck in 2014. He has won the Society of Professional Journalists prestigious Public Service award, a Peabody award, and The Consumer Federation of America Betty Furness award, and been given Consumer Action’s Consumer Excellence Award.

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