One state proposes to "Ban the Box" on employment forms that must be checked to disclose any criminal background. At the same time, they have no problem with permitting instant discrimination against applicants with unacceptable prior income levels.
Killed someone before? No problem, if the justice system says you have paid your debt to society and are safe to walk free to lead a productive life henceforth. A few (or even many) mistakes should not automatically make you ineligible for a job. After all, how are ex-cons expected to rehabilitate themselves if they are arbitrarily denied employment over some bad decision that has now been rectified, repaid or properly punished? The proposed protective anti-bias legislation is sensible, with obvious exceptions. It also permits exploration of criminal history after initial screening suggests the candidate appears to have the qualifications for the opening.
If malefactors have paid their debt to society, their candidacy for a paying job would be judged on the basis of their positive qualifications rather than their worst negative acts. Applicant knowledge, skills, abilities, experience and potential should be the primary employment criteria. Job seekers should not be disqualified by an aspect of their past life that has no bearing on their ability to perform the specified duties. Simple justice argues that employment applicants should not be immediately excluded from consideration by the exposure of mistakes for which the price has already been paid.
Sadly, the same logic applied to criminal mistakes is not carried over to "the mistake" of earning a prior amount that upsets the hiring manager. No crime was committed. No earlier economic decision by a different employer in different circumstances has any bearing on the applicant's qualifications for this particular open position, either. Disclosed prior pay amounts will still be used against the interests of the candidate, even when the prospective employer refuses to mention its anticipated offer figure or share its existing pay range.
Doesn't the free open market for labor demand parity between the parties conducting economic transactions? Employers who refuse to reveal hiring rates have no right to demand that applicants disclose their prior income levels. If someone wants a job at the pay rate offered by the employer, they should have the opportunity to get it instead of being disqualified before they ever get a chance.
Why are hiring managers so unwilling to disclose the amounts they plan to offer for the opening? Let the candidate reject the amount if it is unacceptable or negotiate a total reward package that is mutually agreeable. Applicants who earned far less in other enterprises will be enthusiastic about a new job with a far higher value. Any hiring manager who low-balls an excellent candidate so as to land them at a discounted rate is being stupidly shortsighted. That will only disrupt internal equity and threaten market competitiveness. The inevitable eventual embarrassing rotten equity adjustment can be avoided by paying right at the start. Those who earned a lot more elsewhere might be happy to be paid correctly rather than remain uncomfortably employed waiting for the axe to fall. Outfits with really bad work conditions often "compensate" with extraordinary guaranteed cash amounts which make escape very difficult.
Irrelevant questions about past pay history introduce bias, making it impossible for those who are paid "wrong" to ever get a chance for a serious interview. When someone reveals prior pay that is too high or too low, their resume goes into the round file. Ex-cons who escaped the electric chair might advance towards final consideration while those whose prior income fell outside some magic range are toast. Without ever knowing the reason, perfectly competent applicants are regularly and routinely excluded for reasons that have nothing to do with their competence, qualifications or willingness to work. A career death sentence can be rendered without any fair trial.
This is wrong. Why do human resource professionals allow this?
E. James (Jim) Brennan, former Compensation Editor of the Personnel Journal and Senior Associate of pay surveyor ERI, recently returned to consulting. Author of the Performance Management Workbook and frequent expert witness in executive compensation trials, Jim also serves on the Advisory Board of the Compensation and Benefits Review.
"Application" image by Elissa Pulliam, courtesy of Creative Commons