As if this job market hasn't been challenging enough for the over-50 workforce, now comes news that some large employers are asking applicants to disclose their age on their online applications.
The Huffington Post reports
that several large retailers, including The Home Depot
, are asking jobseekers to state their date of birth on their forms. While the law does not forbid this, it could be an invitation to an age discrimination lawsuit.
At least one of the retailers mentioned in the HuffPost story, Kroger, says it asks for applicants' birth dates "to ensure compliance with laws and regulations governing the employment of minors or establishing age requirements for certain tasks" and that hiring managers do not see the ages of applicants over 21. The others told the HuffPost that they use the information only to conduct background checks once candidates are hired.
Still, as several human resources professionals quoted in the story note, the practice leaves employers vulnerable to charges of age discrimination. Older workers, who already have a harder time finding work than younger workers in the current job market, are filing age discrimination complaints at a higher rate these days; the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says such complaints accounted for 24.4% of all employment discrimination complaints in fiscal 2009.
Older workers seeking jobs in retail are responding by working around the requirement, filling in the birthdate boxes with zeroes. Others have resorted to subterfuge by lying about their birthdates. One job seeker quoted in the HuffPost story, Ruth Lyons, a florist
who was laid off in the fall of 2008, said she kept getting passed over for interviews at one retailer in her area until she gave a later, fake birthdate on her application. Then she got called in, and her charm and personality got her the job on the spot.
Which suggests that lying might be a good strategy for the older job seeker in a job market lousy with younger, cheaper workers. Ruth Lyons strategically lied her way to a new job; would you? Think about this for a minute and share your thoughts in the comments.
By Sandy Smith
Sandy Smith is a veteran freelance writer, editor and public relations professional who lives in Philadelphia. Besides blogging for RetailGigs.com, he has written for numerous publications and websites, would be happy to do your resume, and is himself actively seeking career opportunities on Nexxt. Check out his LinkedIn profile and read his other posts on RetailGigsBlog.com.