Digital Discrimination: How Online Job Applications May Subject Employers to Legal Action

The job market and application process are increasingly being driven by digital job platforms such as Monster, Indeed, and CareerBuilder. In addition to these platforms, employers’ own company websites are increasingly reliant upon online forms to accept and review new employee applications. While perhaps increasing efficiency, these online application platforms also raise unique legal considerations which may potentially increase employers’ exposure to claims of unlawful discrimination.  

It is unlawful for employers to post job advertisements that seek or dissuade applicants of a particular race, sex, religion, national origin, or age. Some advertisements may be blatantly discriminatory, such as a job post providing for “no applicants over fifty.” According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, even job postings that seek “recent college graduates” may violate the law for the same reason. And more recently, even less obvious application methods have come under fire for discriminating on the basis of age.

The popular job website Monster was recently the subject of an Illinois Attorney General investigation due to its JOBR application’s exclusion of applicants over certain ages. More specifically, the JOBR drop-down menu that allowed users to select certain criteria such as date of graduation and date of employment only went back to 1980. As a result, some applicants were barred from providing answers and unable to complete the application process.  Despite the fact that this may only affect job applicants who are well into what is typically considered to be retirement age, the results may still be found to be discriminatory.

As a direct result of this investigation, other popular job posting websites and employers have already made modifications to their websites to ensure that participation is possible for people of all ages. Although no lawsuit was filed against Monster in this particular instance, the potential for legal action certainly exists. Employers would benefit from a review of their application process to ensure compliance with state and federal employment regulations.

Hoagland Longo attorneys are available to assist employers in their compliance efforts and to represent employers and individuals in age discrimination matters before state and federal courts and administrative agencies. For more information about hiring practices and procedures, or for any other labor and employment questions you may have, please contact our Labor & Employment group at 732-545-4717.