Employers know that one of the easiest ways to find a whole group of candidates for entry level professional jobs is to recruit at college candidates. But, is that also age discrimination?
A 53 year old accountant filed suit against accounting giant Price Waterhouse Cooper last month alleging just that. According to the suit, PWC recruits almost exclusively at college campuses for entry level accounting jobs, thereby limiting their hiring to only younger workers and excluding those, like the plaintiff, who fall into age protected classifications. By the way, PWC reports its average age of PWC workers in 2011 was 27.
This same type of argument has been made against companies who solely recruit through online job sites, like Indeed and others with the argument that significantly fewer job candidates who are older use those sites. News organization Reuters reports that Facebook settled a lawsuit in 2013 which alleged that the company posted job ads for “recent graduates”, thereby excluding older workers, and Google and Twitter are facing similar suits.
The plaintiff in the suit against Price Waterhouse claims that the company’s focused recruiting on college campuses created a disparate impact against older would-be applicants. In essence, while PWC has never overtly limited its hiring to only younger workers, the effect of its hiring practices is to exclude older applicants and those who do not have access to campus job fairs and recruiting initiatives.
How can employers avoid falling prey to a claim like this? First of all, if your business has a website that includes job vacancies, always post every job on your website. While entry level jobs are most often the domain of younger workers looking for a toehold in the workforce, don’t limit recruiting or advertising to colleges or schools in general because the vast majority of students are younger. Although statistics show that fewer people read job ads in newspapers these days, and fewer still are younger readers, newspaper ads can still reach candidates that might not be tech savvy but still can be good workers. Finally, follow the general rule to reach as broad of a cross section of the population as possible. Trade magazines or newspapers are okay as long as they reach a variety of possible candidates in terms of age, gender, race, etc. who are interested in that particular area of work. Local papers or publications are fine also, but it’s best not to limit recruiting to that medium alone if your advertisement is not likely to reach a diverse group of people.
The lawsuit is titled Rabin v. PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, Case No. 3:16-cv-02276, pending in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.