rejecting candidates because of their neighborhood

A reader writes:

During a workshop I attended, an employment counselor mentioned that some candidates can be rejected simply because of their zip code. Apparently, some hiring managers will screen out applications when residences are in zip codes implicating problems, such as being chronically late for work. Is this something you’ve been aware of?

Not only am I not aware of it, but it would almost certainly raise legal issues if the neighborhoods being screened out happened to have predominantly minorities living there. But legal issues aside, it’s obviously a terrible idea.

In fact, this is such a bad idea (and as far as I know, not a normal practice) that I can only conclude that the “employment counselor” at this workshop didn’t know what the hell he or she was talking about. I’d love to know what else she told you.

{ 12 comments… read them below }

  1. Evil HR Lady*

    Yeah, the employment counselor has no idea what she’s talking about. Maybe SHE screens applicants via zip code. Sheesh. Who even pays attention to zip code.

    Unless, of course, it’s 90210

  2. Just another HR lady*

    I did have an employee once ask me if it was discriminatory to screen on the basis of geography. I asked her what she meant, and she said her spouse had applied for a job and was told that he “lived too far away” to be considered for the position, he lived approx a 2-hour drive from work. (and in Canada in the winter, that means that you are not getting to work when it snows).

    I told her that as long as he wasn’t being screened out based on a prohibited ground, geography wasn’t discrimination. I don’t think she was in agreement with me though. :-)

  3. Kimberley*

    I’ve heard of employers here screening applicants based on where they live. They fear that the commute will be too long for some. I guess they feel that by not hiring someone who has an hour’s commute they’ll prevent tardiness.

    And I always thought that it was good work ethic that prevented tardiness.

  4. Erica*

    I believe this is an old, possibly racist and/or classist trick that mortgage companies used to use. The idea being that some neighborhoods are full of poor people, and they will steal, be late, etc.

    Discriminating by ZIP code is different from saying “Hey, I think you live too far away and I have concerns that you will not be able to show up at work on time, every day.”

  5. Anonymous*

    This is completely outside of the work scenario, but a place where I’ve seen a similar line of reasoning. Some car rental companies in New York City will charge more if your license address is in specific areas (Brooklyn, Bronx, Queens) claiming that “significantly more accidents and damages happen with drivers from those areas.” As a Brooklyn resident I’ve always found this dubious.

    Personally, I think its a bogus way to screen applicants, especially in major cities where living in the center is cost prohibitive.

    In addition I’d add that of my employees its the ones who live closest who are the most often late to work. Those far away seem to be much more conscious of how much they need to be on top of their morning schedule.

  6. humanresourcespufnstuf*

    I call this a “Sasquatch”, I’ve heard people makethese claims before, but have never met anyone who actually saw proof that it has happened. That being said, if it has or is happening I agree that it is a bad bad idea and an open invite for a discrimination law suit.

  7. The Engineer*

    Many employers have a “response time” requirement for on call employees. It is very easy to defend their use if they are uniformly applied to the job class in question.

  8. jadoescher*

    Some employers might discriminate this way, but you wouldn’t want to work there if they did.

  9. llamaface*

    I’ve been asked on job applications how far my commute would be to work there. I can see where it might be relevant in certain situations. If the drive is very long, you could probably be easily tempted away for a closer position. Gas prices, wear and tear, yadi yadi.

    But I can’t imagine rejecting based purely on neighborhood.

  10. Clinic manager*

    Distance to our office is one (small) consideration when I hire. Candidates who have an hour long commute through the cities (Twin Cities, Minnesota) are somewhat less desirable than those who live 15 minutes away. Having said that, qualifications outweigh everything else; some of my best employees do live far away. Neighborhood or zip code is different than distance, and I’d never hire or reject based on zip. That’s just ugly.

  11. ChowJobs*

    When I was applying for jobs as a recent grad, I had the feeling that I was overlooked because of my residence (Jersey City) and university (New Jerse City University) even though I have a porfolio of published works…. It’s OK – this is the real world.

  12. Anonymous*

    When going through resumes for an admin position a senior person at my last job made a comment about how far away someone lived (an outer suburb, possibly as much as an hour commute) my thinking was that a) if she lives on the train line it would only take her 30 minutes b) she could be planning on moving closer in c) being a recent grad she could be using her parents address as a permanent address until she settles in.


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