Know Your Rights As An Applicant! | Articles & Tips | | Rochester




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 Know Your Rights As An Applicant!

By Joe Stein

I truly believe that the vast majority of employers mean well. They fully want to abide by the laws that bind them and even when they don’t follow, it is usually because of omission and not a conscious decision to not abide. There are laws, however, that serve to protect job applicants during the recruiting and hiring process for when something does not go as it should.
It used to be that almost all employment law was written with the employee in mind and its impact may expand out beyond that scope to include applicants. The focus of this week’s article is on some of the most recent changes directly impacting applicants that you have missed or were not in place during the last time you were in a job search.
The oldest and broadest are the laws in place to protect people based on a variety of characteristics including race, sex, etc. starting with the 1964 Title VII Civil Rights Act. Over the years, items such as age and disability status have been added to the protection list via different passed legislation.
In most situations, discrimination of this kind is more covert in nature, involving the Hiring Manager choosing to interview or hire one person over another based on something other than job qualifications. On the rare occasion, a Hiring Manager will tip off her/his intention by asking or making a comment that can be tied back to your protected class. I think most job applicants realize that discriminating against based on these items are prohibited, although it may be very difficult, at times, to prove it has occurred.
There are, however, some newer items that have come about over the last couple of years that you should be aware of. It is especially important to know your rights now as employers may still be adjusting to the changes.
While New York State has yet to pass a state-wide “ban the box” law, most major state municipalities (including Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse) have passed this type of legislation. These laws protect applicants with a criminal history by prohibiting employers from asking about their past record on an employment application. Generally, employers subject to such laws are only permitted to ask about an applicant’s criminal record further on in the hiring process after a conditional offer of employment has been made. These laws have been passed as part of an overall initiative to assist those with criminal records with finding a job and acclimating themselves back into society.
2020 saw a number of states, including New York, implement laws that prohibit employers from asking job applicants about their salary history. The State has passed this legislation as a counter to its belief that some employers will use current salary to continue gender or race-based gaps in compensation. In other words, if there are lower existing salaries for those who are female or Hispanic, then basing their new hire salary offer on their current compensation will just perpetuate the issue. The idea is that if an employer does not know your current salary, then they will offer what is most fair to the labor market. So, a company is not permitted to ask for an applicant’s salary history either in the application or during the interview.
Now, you can always share your salary history with the prospective employer if you feel it would help you from a strategy perspective. An example of where that might be helpful is if you have been promoted a number of times with your current employer but the titles may not necessary reflect it, but the salary adjustments do.
A little talked about benefit to this legislation may be those individuals who are a little older and, in the past, have been paid higher than the market. When those individuals find themselves unemployed, their past salary can often be a huge barrier due to the stigma of being “over qualified”. Now, employers won’t know their past compensation and should lump them in with any other candidate seeking the position.
We all would like to think that every hiring decision is made fairly based on who is the best candidate for the position. Unfortunately, on the rare occasion that is not the case, laws need to be in place to protect applicants in those situations. As a savvy job seeker, it is important to know your rights as an applicant!
As always, best of luck in your job search.