Whether you are just starting your lawn care business or have been a professional in the Green Industry for many years, you will eventually have employees. Growing your business requires help and with that help, with employees, come HR responsibilities.

 

The field of HR, Human Resources is one of the most complex and demanding areas of any business, including lawn care. This column will bring you regular information, tips, ideas, and solutions that will make you a better human resource manager.

Good Behavior

Behavioral interviewing is a common technique that recruiters use to evaluate a potential candidate. The basic premise of behavioral interviewing is that the best predictor of future results is past behavior in similar situations.

Examples of behavioral interview questions are:

• Describe a time when you had to follow a policy you didn’t agree with. What did you do?
• Give me a specific example of a time you used good judgment to solve a problem.
• Tell me about a time you had to go above and beyond the call of duty to get a job done.

You may already be using behavioral interviewing in your lawn care operation quite effectively when talking to candidates. But are you also using the techniques to their fullest potential while checking candidate references?

Take a look at your reference checking questions and see where you can add or improve behavioral elements. Do you ask for examples of specific situations that the lawn care candidate was involved in? Do you probe for details of these situations? Doing so will give you more powerful and more accurate references.

© 2003 Paul Dodd is the CEO of Head2Head, the in-house recruitment experts. For more information about improving your company’s recruitment productivity while spending less, contact Paul at 416.440.0097 or paul@head2head.ca. Or for more quick recruiting tips, visit www.head2head.ca/newsletter.php

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You may already be using behavioral interviewing quite effectively when talking to candidates

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Legal and Illegal Questions - A Training Guide for the Lawn Care Business

Background for Trainer

If any trainees are still unaware of the cost and danger of inappropriate, illegal questioning, the legal consequences should be brought out. For most supervisors, the main point to emphasize is that there are legal means for them to find out what they need to know in order to do their jobs. With caution, thought, and practice, they can learn to avoid saying anything that will prove costly to themselves and the lawn care company.

Regulations that Apply

Age Discrimination in Employment Act, Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Civil Rights Act Title VII, Equal Pay Act, Executive Order 11246, Immigration Reform and Control Act, Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Act of 1974

Typical Legal Problems/Lawsuits

Questions are illegal when they discriminate against any protected group.

Compliance tips:

• Ask only job-related questions.
• Ask the same questions of all job applicants.
• If in doubt, don’t ask.

 

Training Objectives for the Meeting

Trainees will be able to:

1. Recognize which topics are legally perilous in lawn care employment interviews.

2. Know how to get necessary information legally.

3. Know which topics to avoid altogether.

4. Use job relevance as the key for determining whether a question is legitimate.

 


5. Comply with the ADA when interviewing job candidates.

Legal and Illegal Questions: Key Training Points

Training Exercise

Have trainees number from one to eight on a sheet of paper. Tell them to place a check mark by each question they think would be legally acceptable when interviewing job candidates.

1) What is your date of birth?

2) Where were you born?

3) How tall are you?

4) Do you wish to be addressed as Mrs., Miss, or Ms.?

5) Have you ever been arrested?

6) How many children do you have?

7) Do you have any disabilities?

8) Of what country are you a citizen?

When you’ve completed reading the questions, ask trainees how many checks they made. Then tell them that if they checked any they could be in trouble.

Go down the list again and have trainees discuss why they thought the question was or was not allowable.

1. Compliance overview.

Complaints of discrimination are very serious and very expensive when they turn into lawsuits. What are the best tips?

• Ask only job-related questions–that is, questions that have to do with whether the candidate can do the job.

• Ask the same questions of all candidates. If you don’t ask men, don’t ask women. If you don’t ask Caucasians, don’t ask African-Americans.

• If in doubt, don’t ask.

• Don’t make any statement that implies a position is “permanent” or will end only if performance proves unsatisfactory.

2. Avoid all discriminatory questions. Get necessary information legally.

Training Exercise

Hand out, “Legal Question Primer.” As you go over the following illegal questions and the thinking behind the law, emphasize that trainees may get needed information by asking the questions in the right hand column on the sheet. Remind them that all information they request must be relevant to the lawn care job position they are filling.

• Suggest they use the form to make sure there is a reason for touching on a sensitive area.

• Have them fill in the “Relevance” blank for a position they supervise.

• Encourage them to ask questions about whether or not a piece of information is necessary as the group works through the form together.

• Age, date of birth

–Don’t ask, “How old are you?” “What is your date of birth?”

–Don’t require a document revealing date of birth unless there is a bona fide reason.

–You may ask for assurance person is of minimum age for the job.

–Any other age specifications in advertising or questioning may discriminate on the basis of age.


• Arrest records

–Don’t ask, “Have you ever been arrested?” “How many times and for what?”

–You may ask, “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” “Please give details” if relevant to the position and if accompanied by a statement that conviction doesn’t necessarily bar employment.

• Citizenship, country of birth

–Don’t ask, “Of what country are you a citizen?” “Where were you born? Your parents?”

–This may discriminate on the basis of national origin.

–You may ask about legal eligibility to work in this country.

• Clubs, social organizations, etc.

–Don’t ask, “List clubs, social organizations, etc., to which you belong.”

–This could indicate membership in a protected group.

–You may ask, “List professional or trade groups, unions or other organizations that you consider relevant to your ability to perform this work. (Omit those indicating race, creed, sex, age, handicap, national origin, or other protected group.)

• Disabilities, illnesses

–Don’t ask, “Do you have any disabilities?” “Have you ever been treated for any of the following diseases?” “Do you have any physical, mental, or medical disabilities that would interfere with your ability to perform the lawn care job for which you have applied?”

–These discriminate against persons with handicaps.

–You may ask if the person can perform the job’s specific essential functions and require a post-job-offer pre-employment physical that’s job-related.

• Height and weight

–Don’t ask, “How tall are you?” “How much do you weigh?”

–These questions can discriminate against women and certain ethnic groups.

–Substitute physical tests if relevant to job performance requirements.

• Language

– Don’t ask, “What is your ‘native tongue’?” “What is your first language?” “What language is spoken at home?” “How did you learn a foreign language?”

– These questions may discriminate on basis of national origin.

– If job-related, you may ask, “What language(s) do you speak and/or write fluently?” “Degree of fluency?”

• Marital status, children, or child care arrangements

–Don’t ask, “Do you wish to be addressed as Mr., Mrs., or Ms.?” “How many children do you have? Their ages?” “What is your marital status?”

–These may discriminate on the basis of sex.

–State company policy on attendance and leaves and/or the travel or overtime requirements of the job, if any, and ask if candidate would be able to meet these conditions.

• Personal finances

–Don’t ask, “Do you have any overdue bills?”

–This is a violation of privacy.

• Race, color, or religion

–Don’t make any inquiries into these areas.

–Don’t ask about complexion or color of skin or eyes.

–Anti-discrimination laws are clear.

3. Considerations under the ADA.

• Concentrate on the essential functions of the lawn care job.

• Don’t “slot” a job as suitable for someone who is handicapped or suggest that that is the case.

• Don’t stereotype job seekers in terms of their disabilities.

• Ask job-related questions such as, “how would you perform this task?”

• Don’t ask how the person became disabled.

• Don’t ask any other questions you wouldn’t ask non-handicapped individuals (e.g., “how would you get to work?”)

Wrap-Up

1. Recap. There are legal means for you to find out what you need to know. With caution, thought, and practice, you can learn to avoid saying anything that will prove costly to you or to the company. Remember:

• Ask only job-related questions.

• Ask the same questions of all candidates.

• If in doubt, don’t ask.

2. Closing Oral Quiz.

a. Individuals can’t be sued for discrimination, only companies are.

Answer: False. Individuals can be, and often are, named in discrimination suits.

b. Because of the anti-discrimination laws, there’s no way to find out if someone’s religious holidays are going to create a coverage and scheduling problem.

Answer: False. You can’t ask people about their religion, but you can make the hours and your attendance requirements clear when offering the job.

c. Anti-discrimination laws make employers hire people from protected groups whether they’re qualified or not.

Answer: False. The laws require that you give everyone an equal opportunity. You never have to hire an unqualified person.

d. You can’t make speaking clear English a requirement for a sales job.

Answer: False. Communicating clearly with English-speaking people may be an essential job function, in which case it is a requirement.

3. For Further Skill-Building

Complete the “job relevance” portion of the “Legal Question Primer” for your own position and all lawn care positions you supervise.

4. Final Feedback

• Hand out and collect instruction evaluations.

• Thank trainees for their participation.

Legal Question Primer
 
Position being filled: ____________________________________

Topic: Questions Allowed Under the Law:

• Age, date of birth - Are you over___(state minimum age or the minimum age for the job)?

Relevance of information to this position:

• Arrest records - “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” “Please give details” for such positions as daycare, security guard, money handling, etc.)

Relevance of information to this position:

• Citizenship, country of birth - “Are you legally eligible to work in this country?”

Relevance of information to this position:

• Clubs, social organizations, etc. - “List professional or trade groups, unions or other organizations that you consider relevant to your ability to perform this work. (Omit those indicating race, creed, sex, age, handicap, national origin, or other protected group.)

Relevance of information to this position:

• Disabilities, illnesses - “Are you able to __________ [specify each essential job function]?”

Relevance of information to this position:

• Height and weight - These questions are never permitted. Appropriate physical tests must be substituted and administered to all candidates.

Relevance of information to this position:

• Language - If job-related, you may ask, “What language(s) do you speak and/or write fluently?” “Degree of fluency?”

Relevance of information to this position:

• Marital status, children, or child care arrangements -

Any questions in this area are risky. If time off or travel requirements are a concern, state company policy on attendance and leaves and/or the requirements of the job and ask if candidate would be able to meet these requirements.

Relevance of information to this position:

• Personal finances - These questions are never allowed.

• Race, color, or religion - These questions are never allowed.