Navigating the Legal Minefield of Hiring & Managing Employees

Navigating the Legal Minefield of Hiring & Managing Employees

In this lesson, you’re expected to learn about:
– legal issues in hiring employees
– HR compliance

Legal Issues in Hiring Employees

Negligent hiring lawsuits have increased in the last two decades and employers have been forced to respond to them. Not knowing about the latest hiring rules and regulations has never been so costly for organizations.

Recruiting a new employee might appear to be a simple process. Post the position on a job portal, request resumes, select a few who fit the bill, invite them for an interview, shortlist a few, check references, and finally present the offer letter to one—or more depending on the number of vacancies. Sounds simple enough but in reality, it is anything but simple.

It is an extremely complex process, and every step of the way you need to be aware of certain legal implications. Even the questions that you ask during an interview need to be carefully considered, lest they be considered discriminatory.

Every step mentioned above needs to adhere to legal requirements. Failing to do so can otherwise land you in a legal mess.

Let’s now examine a few key legal issues a recruiter needs to be wary of during recruitment and selection. 

Job Posting

The wording of the job posting, whether in a newspaper or job portal, needs to be carefully framed. It shouldn’t give preference to a person’s race, color, religion, sexual orientation or even political belief. This is guarded by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). It is illegal to discriminate against an applicant based on any of these factors.

Some of the other parameters are gender, age, and disability. The EEOC also protects employees and job applicants from the following:

a) Harassment based on any of the discriminatory parameters
b) Retaliation in case they file a formal complaint regarding discriminatory practices.

Pre-Employment Assessment

Many companies require potential hires to take part in a pre-employment assessment, an area ripe for recruitment related lawsuits. Assessments need to avoid the following:
– Discriminate or adversely affect a protected minority.
– Require unreasonably high or restrictive standards that are not job-relevant.
– Invade Privacy.

In order to prove test validation, an employer must conduct a statistical study that proves that the pre-employment assessment measures what it is purported to without adversely impacting a protected group.


The questions you ask during interviews need to be carefully framed. Like the pre-employment assessment, interview questions need to be carefully selected, so as not to be considered discriminatory. You also need to explain the job requirements in such a way that it provides equal opportunity to every applicant.

For example, if the job requires the incumbent to be on call 24/7, state that explicitly. In cases of disability and religion, the EEOC specifically states that the employer needs to provide reasonable accommodations for employee or job applicants’ disabilities or employees’ religious beliefs.

Final Offer

While making a formal job offer to an applicant, ensure that the pay offered is based strictly on the skills and responsibilities required for the job. In companies that have a union, the pay is often calculated on seniority or quantity/quality of production. It shouldn’t be based on any of the discriminatory parameters mentioned earlier.

The U.S. Department of Labor regulates legal issues related to wage structure, including minimum payment, overtime payment, and severance packages.

[Optional] HR Compliance
Read this article to learn more about compliance:
Age Discrimination

In the U.S., The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA) protects individuals who are 40 years of age or older from employment discrimination based on age. The ADEA’s protections apply to both employees and job applicants.

Under the ADEA, it is unlawful to discriminate against a person because of his/her age with respect to any term, condition, or privilege of employment, including hiring, firing, promotion, layoff, compensation, benefits, job assignments, and training.

The ADEA applies to employers with 20 or more employees, including state and local governments.

Equal Employment Opportunity

Equal Employment Opportunity laws prohibit specific types of job discrimination in certain workplaces.

Importance of Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO)

Equal employment practices are important for both individuals and organizations. On an individual basis, these laws accomplish many things.

1) First, it helps establish a baseline for acceptable behavior, which is important considering the vast array of lifestyles, values, and attitudes individuals have.

2) Secondly, EEO practices help individuals feel they are being treated fairly and equally, which can increase an individual’s level of commitment, satisfaction, and loyalty to their employer.

3) A third reason involves a person’s mental mindset and sense of personal worth and well-being. An individual that feels confident in all situations, even ones where he or she is a minority, will help the individual’s sense of overall worth and ability to comfortably contribute.

Affirmative Action

Affirmative action imposes on employers the duty to take positive steps to identify discrimination against protected classes and to improve work opportunities for women and minorities.

It requires a company to proactively reach out to qualified members of groups that were formerly excluded from hiring and promotional opportunities. The concept is fairly simple: Unless companies aggressively combat the effects of unintended discrimination, the status quo will remain, and protected groups of employees will continue to be excluded from equal employment opportunities.


Discrimination is the biggest concern as far as the legal issues related to recruitment and hiring are concerned. The most important prerequisite is equal opportunity for every job applicant to eventually land the job. Every person connected to the hiring process should be aware of the above illustrated legal issues.

Besides the legal ramifications, the reputation of a firm suffers if instances of discrimination come to light. Merit should be the only basis of recruitment, and should be ingrained in your company’s recruitment process.

[Optional] Affirmative Action
Check out this link to learn more about affirmative action:
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