Fulfilling My Quota
Today in class (Strategic Staffing), we focused a lot more on legal issues in my latest class – essentially, when and how to discriminate. Because let’s face it, every time we make a decision about who we are going to hire, or filter out – we are discriminating against someone. Sometimes, that’s okay. For example, if I am hiring people to write for my blog, I would discriminate against non-English speakers, and for someone to watch my children, I am going to select against those who have committed violent acts against kids (sure, they would presumably be other criteria, but you get the point.) We learned a little bit about the Equal Employment Opportunity law, protected classes, etc. Most of the class was focused on adverse impact.
What really struck me was not only how little I really understood about so-called “quotas” and affirmative action, and was a little disturbed that I wasn’t in the minority (haha!). We talked a bit about the recent Ricci/firefighter case and I find a lot of my perceptions changing. I think that despite my bleeding heart liberal tendencies, I believed that there was some sort of inherent “reverse racism” occurring. After really hearing and understanding what these requirements are, I am proud to go back to being a bleeding heart who not only understands why they are in place, but supports them. It has a lot to do with job relatedness and test validity.
Essentially, it’s not “if you have X of Majority, you have to have X of minority” but more along the lines of “If you hire X% of all Majority that apply, you should also be hiring X% of all Minorities that apply.” If you aren’t, that’s where a lawsuit may come in, with a shifting burden of proof. Are you intentionally discriminating? Is there an adverse reaction due to the test you chose? Is that unavoidable because of job relatedness, etc.? This isn’t a case of keeping “The White Man” down, but more taking a look into if there any real, specific reasons to why a protected class is underrepresented in a company’s demographic. If a company has a good reason for it, then it is most likely off the legal hook.
The other interesting point to me was that as long as you don’t have an adverse impact or intentionally discriminate against a protected class, you can discriminate against whomever you damn well please. Only want to hire Scorpios? Go for it! Just make sure that your Scorpios you hired don’t have any inherent discrimination biases in selection, and if they do – make sure you can prove why only hiring Scorpios has a correlation to job performance. Because this stuff can get really messy, most companies err on the side of being super cautious and don’t make these ridiculous hiring practices. But, there is no law against making dumb hiring choices. And there is certainly no federal law protecting you if you feel that you were passed over because someone didn’t like your choice in ties. Totally legal.
I think that if more people understood test creation and validity tests (something I am excited to learn a lot more about) then these national and personal conversations would be a lot more interesting and have more merit. Now, it seems like we argue what we think is going on, and while those conversations may be interesting and thought-provoking, they have very little resemblance to what’s actually being disputed in court. Ignorance or media influenece? Not sure, but probably a combination of both. I wish more people (including myself) did a lot more research before spouting out half-baked theories, and I wish the SIOP had better PR folks.
NB: This is a write-up of my thoughts after attending class. If there are HR pros who want to correct me on anything, please jump in. I may have gotten stuff wrong, etc.