5 DIVERSITY DANGER ZONES
Ensure your good intentions don’t create unnecessary legal risks.
By Jonathan A. Segal
Business leaders are making a conscious e;ort to increase diversity, particularly at the
top. That’s a good thing. But it’s also
important to remember that sometimes well-intended e;orts can lead
to unexpected problems, particularly if you aren’t fully conversant with
federal civil rights laws.
Here are ;ve examples of steps
that are sometimes taken to increase
diversity but can carry legal risks,
and how you can achieve the same
outcome without exposing yourself to
1. JOB REQUIREMENTS
Most employers include minimum
experience requirements in their
job postings. When the mandated
amount of experience is considerable,
however, such a prerequisite can have
a particularly negative impact on
women and minorities who histori-
cally have been denied certain jobs.
So take a more thoughtful look at
how much and what type of employment background is truly necessary
for the positions you need to ;ll.
At the same time, it’s probably not a
good idea to impose caps on experience, as some employers are doing
in their e;orts to increase diversity,
because setting a maximum can
adversely a;ect older workers who are
more likely to have experience that exceeds what you need. You don’t want
to trade one form of bias for another.
2. TARGE TED APPLICANT POOLS
One way to boost the diversity of the
team is to draw from a more diverse
applicant pool. To do that, some HR
leaders engage in targeted recruiting
aimed at women and minorities.
While this can be a good option,
3. BLIND SCREENING
Conduct targeted recruiting at the
same time as general recruiting to
avoid the appearance of bias against
those who were quali;ed but not a
member of the group or groups sub-
Studies show that women and people
of color are more likely to advance
in the hiring process when those
who make the decisions about who
to interview do not know or suspect
the gender, race or ethnicity of the
That’s why the concept of blind
screening—in other words, barring
decision-makers from seeing names
or other identifying information on
resumes or applications—has gained
traction among some employers.
The risk here comes when you
make exceptions to this practice.
Let’s assume that you engage
in blind screening for all director
positions and above, but not for the
chief ;nancial o;cer role. You don’t
need to be an attorney to realize how
that move could be argued credibly
as evidence that you want to know
the equal employment opportunity
demographics of candidates in decid-
ing who to interview for the ;nancial
Don’t commit to this form of hiring
unless you are prepared to live with it
for the universe of positions to which
it applies. Exceptions to the process
will be hard to defend.