Diversity Hiring Directives: A Legal Tightrope

by Aman Singh Das | January 07, 2010

  • My Vault

Here's a great question featured in The Washington Post's How to Deal column today and one that crosses our minds every time we have a human resources meeting or discuss diversity initiatives: I work for a public organization. I love my job and my boss and the CEO. I have also served on several hiring committees. I have been told point blank by various levels of leadership that we have to hire non-white candidates. I was also told that we have to hire somebody younger than 42. Aren't these directives illegal? The last candidate that we hired was white and 42+ years old. I agree that we want a diverse workforce. How do we achieve that without engaging in illegal discrimination?

Of course, there are the obvious--illegal shall we say--ramifications of the question. For one, gender discrimination is a crime. Secondly, age discrimination is another. And thirdly, how many of the mentioned executives are "non-white" themselves?

There is at the same time, however, the argument that while the execution is incorrect, the goal behind the effort is smart. As Lily Garcia, a employment law expert advises in the Post, "Diverse groups consistently surpass homogeneous ones in their capacity to problem-solve efficiently and creatively," adding, "In the myopic pursuit of one or two specific types of diversity, your organization will tend to exclude many others and, as you have experienced, delegitimize a noble effort."

An interesting dilemma for sure. Visit the Post's special section to read more.

Filed Under: CSR

Close button

Get tips on interviewing, networking, resumes, and more directly to your inbox.

No Thanks

Get Our Career Newsletter

Interview, resume and job search tips emailed directly to you.