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Why job application documents must be handled with extreme care

When a small business owner reaches the point at which they are ready to bring in some much-needed help, it can prove to be equal parts exciting and unnerving. On the one hand, hiring new workers can mean freeing up more time and increasing productivity, while on the other hand it can mean having to invest considerable time in the interview and training processes.

Before sitting down to interview or devise training materials, however, small business owners will first need to draft job applications. While this might seem like a relatively straightforward endeavor, legal experts indicate it could actually prove to be problematic later on if the necessary precautions aren't taken.

In general, experts indicate that small business owners -- or employers of any size for that matter -- should never pose questions to applicants that are designed to secure information they wouldn't otherwise be able to consider when making a hiring determination.

To that end, they point of several common mistakes employers can make when it comes to job applications.

Including questions about an applicant's medical condition or disabilities

Questions about an applicant's disability or medical condition would violate the Americans with Disabilities Act, guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and analogous state laws. Furthermore, either the courts or the EEOC are able to presume that when an employer asks a question seeking this prohibited information that it played a role in the hiring decision.

Failing to include a nondiscrimination statement

Experts indicate that employers should consider limiting their potential exposure by including a nondiscrimination statement in job applications.

In other words, language indicating the company 1) is an equal opportunity employer, and 2) does not discriminate in the hiring process based on protected classifications under local, state and federal law.

We'll return to this conversation in a future post. In the meantime, if you are a small business owner with questions or concerns relating to an employment law matter, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional.

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