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Job Questions that Cross the Line
>>AMY SUSAN: Hi, I’m Amy Susan, Director of Communications for the Missouri Department of Labor. On this week’s edition of labor talk, a pod cast where experts discuss workplace issues that affect your life, I’m joined here with Cornell Dillard. He’s the Chief Human Relations Officer here at the Department of Labor. Welcome to the show, Cornell.
>>CORNELL DILLARD: Thank you.
>>SUSAN: How are you today?
>>DILLARD: I’m wonderful. Thank you for inviting me.
>>SUSAN: Well, thank you for coming to the show. So, Cornell can you tell us what your duties are here and how long you’ve been here?
>>DILLARD: I’ve been with the Department of Labor since 1999. My primary duty is to deal with employee misconduct in an employment environment such as sexual harassment, workplace harassment, grievance process both discriminatory, non discriminatory grievances and misconduct.
>>SUSAN: Well, we’re here to talk specifically about employment discrimination.
>>SUSAN: Can you first explain what that means to Missourians?
>>DILLARD: Discrimination means that you have been judged entirely different than what you’re experiencing qualification entails. In other words, decision was being made based on your personal qualification or personal profile such as your race, your age, your religion, maybe a disability, maybe you’re pregnant, national origin, those things have nothing to do with your ability to do the job and when you make a decision based on that, then you create an environment that is discriminatory under the law.
>>SUSAN: And what are some examples of employment discrimination? Can you take it down another level and give us some situations or scenarios?
>>DILLARD: Yes. Some of the examples, one of the most common part of example is being treated differently because of your age. Let’s look at age. The Missouri workforce is working longer than they have before because the economy situation and because of that, many decisions are based on a person’s age, whether or not they’re going to be with the Department or their job longer than needed or they may want to infuse the Department with some young blood and because of that decision is made not based on their qualification, but more so on the age and whether or not that person will be with them or not and it shouldn’t be the person’s age should have no baring what so ever as long as they are legally able to work.
>>SUSAN: What type of employment discrimination do you investigate more frequently?
>>DILLARD: Race discrimination is one of the biggest one’s and it’s slowly being bypassed, based on harassment in the workplace such as sexual harassment and workplace harassment. Retaliation is another element that is coming to light and retaliation is one where a person contributes to an investigation or files a complaint against the supervisor or an employee and as a result of that they receive a prize and being mistreated or simply being fired because they filed a complaint. We notice that trend is increasingly increasing over the years to the point that it can cause some concern among employees. We all had to recognize that everyone has the right to complain. Supreme Court says that we should complain and because of that we shouldn’t take it personal, we being the employer or the supervisor. You should know if there’s a problem and no one should be punished because they voiced their concern about a problem.
>>SUSAN: What employment questions would be considered discrimination if you are being interviewed for a potential job? Because I know every day individuals are out there looking for jobs and potentially could encounter discrimination. Can you tell us about that?
>>DILLARD: Amy you just touched on one of the most over looked areas when it comes between employment law and that’s the initial intake that when the employee interviews the applicant for the very first time. Without proper training, some of the questions they can ask can lead to a liability issue or to a perception of discrimination, such as asking a person their date of birth, other than the application where you can use that to collect data, but in the interviewing process that’s a question you might want to try to avoid. Asking a person’s date of birth in that case age ask them how old are you? If it’s a female are you planning on having children? What is your religion background? You know will you be able to come to work on Sundays? Will your religion allow you to do that? Those are the kind of questions that center around a personal perception, not so of a perception of qualification to do the job. Stick to what a person can do to successfully do the job, not so much of what you personally believe that person is.
>>SUSAN: And we actually have a list of those questions that an employer is not to ask by visiting our website labor.mo.gov/mohumanrights and you can visit that is you would like to get any examples of questions not to ask during a job interview. What should a person do if they feel they have been discriminated against at their job or if they’ve been discriminated against by not getting a job?
>>DILLARD: Go to our human rights commission link. There they will go through the process of the complaint procedure. It is easy to understand and I recommend everyone to utilize that and if you’re not familiar with the internet then use our toll free number which will be posted on our website as well.
>>SUSAN: Tell us about a new function that you have now on labor.mo.gov/mohumanrights, which will help individuals determine whether or not it’s discrimination. Can you talk about that?
>>DILLARD: Well, we have the intake questionnaire that’s located online and it goes through a simple user friendly step on what a person should do if they feel that they have been discriminated against. It’s a very wonderful tool and allows the person to answer the common question that would be asked by the investigator. Remember, equal protection is stated to everyone.
>>SUSAN: Thank you for those words of wisdom. That’s it for this edition of labor talk. If you have any other questions that you would like us to talk about or for Cornell to address, please visit labor.mo.gov, click on news and notices, and then click on labor talk podcasts.