Human resources professionals are responsible for creating an atmosphere that is both productive to the company and healthy for employees. This sounds simple enough, but it can turn into an absolute mess when issues of discrimination related to race, religion, gender, and sexual preference are thrown into the mix, not to mention dealing with the general problems that can arise in the workplace big or small.
Even actions that were intended to be positive and helpful can be seen as discriminatory and expose a company to potential litigation. No one has learned this lesson better than Starbucks, who have come under fire this week after joining a coalition of over a dozen other companies pledging to hire thousands of disadvantaged 16-24 year olds.
Legal analysts and human resources professionals throughout the industry believe this to be a risky move for all the companies involved. Included in the coalition are airline Alaska Air, drug store CVS, and the tech giant Microsoft Corp.
By pledging to hire young people, there is some implication that older candidates might not be considered regardless of their qualifications. Even though the coalition has good intentions, hiring based on age is technically a violation of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s guidelines, which state that it is illegal for an employer to offer a job opportunity that someone is discouraged from pursuing as a result of their race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or disability.
Furthermore, by targeting disadvantaged young people with systemic barriers to receiving an education, there are some who are accusing the coalition members of targeting racial minorities who make up a disproportionate amount of the pool of disenfranchised young people.
Regardless, human resources in the future must always be careful when trying to provide an opportunity to someone who needs it, while at the same time not excluding anyone along the way.