Hiring the wrong/right person
With a transient work force and a chronic shortage of workers, hiring is a constant focus for many area employers. That means local businesses have a lot of experience navigating hiring laws, but, says attorney Jeff Hyman, it also brings more opportunity for mistakes.Generally the mistakes are unintentional, said Hyman, a shareholder with Denver-based firm Lohf, Shaiman, Jacobs, Hyman & Feiger PC. The main mistake that an employer makes is they stray from the main area of focus, which is, can the potential employee do or perform the essential functions of the job?In job interviews, what may seem like a friendly exchange should be treated as off-limits, Hyman said. The employer just cant even have idle chit-chat about marriage status, age, childbearing status.Asking such questions of a potential employee isnt illegal by itself, Hyman explains. But doing so can be used as evidence of discrimination in court.More hiring may mean greater potential for mistakes, but Dick Carleton, owner of Hearthstone Catering and two Breckenridge restaurants, takes a more positive view as an employer. The turnover of employees means you get a little more practice in hiring, he says.In Carletons view, staying on the right side of hiring laws is mostly common sense.Its like any industry: You need to educate yourself about the dos and donts, he said.The need for knowledgeAt the same time, Carleton says the areas high-turnover work force increases the need for good hiring practices. It heightens the need for the training and the knowledge, he said. Carleton meets that need with work seminars. Ive conducted seminars with all my managers about hiring procedures, he said. You cant assume that your personnel is going to know the dos and donts if you dont educate them.Among the trickier issues of hiring in this area is verifying the legal status of a potential hire. And recent Colorado laws requiring that employers verify new hires identities and immigration status make this an even more pressing issue, says Frisco-based immigration attorney Eric Fisher.With about half of the areas blue-collar work force being foreign-born, according to Fisher, issues of legal status in hiring cant be escaped. Anybody who hires blue-collar workers needs to be concerned about it, he said.The bottom line, Fisher says, is that employers must treat all potential employees the same. And the guidelines are the same for all sizes and types of businesses, although enforcement isnt always neutral.The questions that have to be asked and the procedures youre supposed to go through are supposed to be the same no matter who the employer is, Fisher says. But for investigations, the government usually prioritizes cases that garner publicity or complaints about specific employers, he said.
More workers, more scrutinyLarge employers receive more scrutiny, Hyman said. Theres just a larger group of employees, number one, and number two, larger employers can be more selective. … And in being selective, sometimes discrimination issues surface.Complicating the illegal worker issue is the fact some employers would rather keep employees they suspect are illegal than perform thorough identity checks only to lose good workers, Fisher said. I have 20 clients who have employees, who are their best employees, who are illegal, he said. They want to do whatever it takes to make them legal. They dont want to break the law; they want to make them legal. Hyman echoed Fishers take on the problem. Every employer in the mountains has a difficult time, especially in the retail industry, in hiring employees, he said. The smaller businesses have to look the other way.While the legal status of workers receives a lot of attention, there are several other areas that can be touchy in hiring, Hyman said. Employers sometimes discriminate against those with physical disabilities believing they wont be able to perform the work without giving them an opportunity to prove themselves, he said.Often employers will try to find out if a potential employee has past workers compensation claims or a poor credit history, Hyman said. Both subjects are covered by discrimination laws, although in some industries, like banking, credit history is allowed to be discussed in the hiring process, he said.The cause for most cases of possible discrimination, Hyman says, simply comes down to employers wanting to know more about a job candidate than they should ask in order to find the perfect worker. He says that instead of digging for information, employers should remember Superman or Superwoman employees dont exist.Andy Bruner can be contacted at (970) 668-4620, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.Interview questions dos and dontsIts OK to ask about:Work history and experience; attendanceJob-related skills and trainingAreas of responsibility; industry experienceTypes of work enjoyed most/leastTypes of work easiest/most difficultWork style preferences (alone or part of a team)Education favorite courses, work-related coursesAbility to perform the essential functions of the jobSupervisory experiencePromotions and awardsAchievements, career goalsReason for leaving previous jobVerification of information and background checks