By Tova Jaffee, Career Coach
It’s human nature to look for ways to blame others when our efforts do not achieve the desired results. We do not behave differently in our reactions when it comes to job interviews.
So much of an interview and the employer’s decision not to hire you can appear random or even downright fickle. You might have done all the right things; worn the dark suit, smiled, spoke well about your accomplishments, yet walk away from the interview with the feeling that no matter what you did or said, you would not have been selected because you weren’t the “right” age, gender, or race, or religion. You ask yourself, “was this discrimination?” Maybe, maybe not.
Discrimination is an easy default accusation. It lets you feel blameless and, in fact, might even make you feel emboldened – momentarily. You believe that you have been wronged. Justice needs to be served. You have become a noble victim.
Before becoming too self -righteous and thus detour your job search on your quest for justice; step back to carefully and honestly scrutinize the interview. What made you believe that discrimination took place? Was it something that was specifically said? Was it the work culture and environment that made you feel uneasy? Work environments can have their own unique “family” dynamics and culture. This is why it is important to research a company before an interview. Evaluate whether anything illegal was actually said, done, or asked. It is important to know which interview questions are actually illegal. Life Hacker recently posted “The Most Common Illegal Job Interview Questions You Should Watch Out For”
Sometimes when we look for the reasons why we did not get hired it is all too easy to avoid taking a hard look at ourselves and assess what is necessary to be the best possible candidate. It isn’t easy to take stock and admit that maybe you weren’t hired for reasons that you had control over. Do you need additional education or training? Could you have advocated for or marketed yourself better? Might you have presented yourself in a manner that would have made you appear a clearer match for the company?
Even if you truly believe that an employer passed on you because of his or her prejudices, proving that can be very difficult. The employer can claim that you simply were not the best candidate due to a lack of skills, or other qualifications. With that said, there are laws meant to protect each of us. Please note the following:
Equal Pay Act of 1963: protects both genders who work in same work place and perform equal work from being paid differently based on gender.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: Title VII forbids employment discrimination based on national origin, race, color, religion, or gender. There is reasonable accommodation required of the employer for religious beliefs of the employee unless it is an undue hardship. Sex discrimination covers sexual harassment, and provides that employees who are pregnant be treated in the same way as any other employee with a temporary condition.
Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967: applies to age discrimination of people over the age of 40. It makes it against the law for job advertisements to list age preferences or limitations. An employer can specify an age preference only if he can prove it is a requirement of the job. This law makes it illegal for employers to deny benefits to older employees. It applies to all aspects of employment: hiring, firing, job assignments, pay, promotions, training, and layoffs.
Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990: protects people with disabilities who are qualified to perform the job requirements and must be provided with reasonable accommodations as long as it is not an undue hardship. The job applicant cannot be asked the nature of their disability or its severity. All applicants must be required to take a physical exam if the applicant with a disability is required to. This law does not apply to people with substance abuse issues.
Hopefully, you will never experience true discrimination of any kind. If you do, then know that you can file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC oversees employment discrimination claims, including hiring discrimination, against protected classes, which generally include race, ethnicity, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability and genetic information.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission:
To file a complaint: eeoc.gov
There is an online assessment tool to see if EEOC is the appropriate agency. There are time limits to file a charge from the time of the discrimination, depending on your location. A charge cannot be filed by phone but the process can be started by calling EEOC at 1-800-669-4000.
By Tova Jaffee, Career Coach & DORS Team Supervisor, JCS Career Center
The JCS Career Center offers comprehensive employment assistance that helps job seekers of all abilities and skill levels find and maintain employment. Services include career coaching, career assessments, resume and cover letter services, interview preparation, job readiness training, vocational rehabilitation and job placement assistance.