Employment Applications: The Top Ten

Preparing an employment application used to be pretty standard stuff: name, address, education, employment history, criminal records, right? But that old form has undergone some serious scrutiny in recent years, and questions that used to be considered “standard” can now get employers in trouble. In order to help both employers and applicants steer clear of trouble, here’s a “Top Ten” list of important issues for employers to consider when drafting an employment application in Michigan:

10) Specific questions about an applicant’s foreign address (and which might disclose the applicant’s national origin) are off limits, but an employer may ask for the applicant’s current address, email and/or phone number at which they can be reached.

9) Employers may not ask for the names or relationships of those with whom the applicant resides or whether applicants own or rent their home, but should state that hiring is subject to verification of U.S. citizenship or other proof of the right to remain or work in the United States.

8) Employers may not ask about marital status, or the number and age of children of the applicant before employment, but may ask whether an applicant can meet specific work schedules or whether applicants have any commitments that would prevent them from meeting work attendance requirements. Note that if such questions are asked, they must be asked of all applicants regardless of gender.

7) Date of birth should not be disclosed prior to employment, but employers should state that hiring is subject to verification of legal age for employment.

6) Employers may not ask for a copy of an applicant’s credit report unless used solely for necessary job-related purposes. Physical examinations, polygraph testing, and drug testing are permissible in limited circumstances, but an employment law attorney should be consulted before undertaking any type of employment-related examination.

5) Employers may not ask for information concerning an applicant’s record of arrests without convictions. Questions about felony convictions which relate to reasonable fitness to perform job duties and which occurred within the last 10 years are permissible, but this issue is currently the subject of debate and attention. It is advisable that employers consult an employment law attorney before asking for criminal record information on an employment application.

4) Military records are fair game, but employers should limit questions to whether applicants were in the U.S. armed forces, which branch of the service they entered, their highest rank attained, and a description of any educational or job-related experience they acquired. Applicants should not be asked about dates of service, military service in other countries, or the type of military discharge given.

3) Employers may inquire about an applicant’s work and/or educational history, but should not ask for dates of employment or attendance, or any other questions that might disclose an applicant’s age.

2) Employers may not ask general questions about whether an applicant is disabled and the nature and severity of their disabilities, but may inquire as to whether an applicant is capable of performing all necessary assignments/functions of the position in a safe manner.

And the Number 1 issue for employers to consider when drafting an employment application in Michigan: Employers may NOT ask for an applicant’s age, height, weight, race, religion, or gender unless they can prove this information is necessary to a determination of whether the applicant can meet the requirements for the job to be performed. The employment application should include statements indicating that the employer is an equal opportunity employer.

Employment applications will vary in content with the nature of the position being offered, but in all circumstances employers should state, and applicants should know, that any misstatements or omissions of material facts on the application may be cause for dismissal. If you would like assistance in drafting or responding to an employment application, please feel free to contact Wright Beamer.