Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Online-Only Employment Application Processes Systematically Discriminate Against Poor

The use of online employment application processes as the sole means to apply for jobs systemically discriminates against persons of lower socioeconomic status, many of who are protected classes under equal employment opportunity (EEO) laws. The discrimination arises from the limited Internet access for many of those persons.

EEO laws prohibit discrimination against protected persons in regard to recruiting, the work environment, or any other term, condition, or privilege of employment.  Not only do the laws prohibit intentional discrimination, they also prohibit neutral policies that disproportionately affect protected persons and that are not related to the job and the needs of the business (e.g., requiring job applicants submit their application online through a web-based interface)..

The National Digital Inclusion Alliance released its list of the Top 25 Worst Connected U.S. Cities for Poor Households (households with incomes below $35,000) in September 2015. More than 50% of poor households in Birmingham, Buffalo, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Detroit, Greensboro, Louisville, Memphis, Miami, New Orleans, St. Louis, Toledo, and Washington, D.C. have no Internet access. 

Top 25 Worst-Connected Cities Poor Households ACS 2014 from Angela Siefer


Focus: HOPE's Profile PhotoNew York Times article from May 2015 notes that "Detroit has the worst rate of Internet access of any big American city, with four in 10 of its 689,000 residents lacking broadband." Many of the persons without broadband access - whether at their residences or on smartphones - rely on public libraries for Internet access

In Hope Village, a 100-block area of Detroit, half of the 5,700 residents live in poverty. Many are not getting basic digital literacy skills or access to educational resources for entry-level jobs, much less the growing number of jobs that require more tech skills and vocational certificates.
Julie Rice, a Hope Village resident for the last seven years, has found having limited web access a major obstacle in her search for full-time employment after losing her retailing management job more than two years ago. With a part-time job at a furniture store paying $10.88 an hour, Ms. Rice cannot afford a service to connect to the web, which can cost more than $70 a month. 
So Ms. Rice has made Hope Village’s public library, Parkman, her career center. She regularly comes on the five days the library is open to search retailing openings, arrange interviews and take employment tests. The library typically extends her time online over the one-hour session limit. Even so, during a recent online exam for a store manager job at Ann Taylor, she ran out of time and was locked out of the test.
Every day it becomes harder to find opportunities in Detroit without using the web. Sean Person, a Hope Village resident, has gone to stores more than a dozen times and asked to fill out paper applications, only to be told to apply online. Most listings on Michigan’s biggest private and public jobs site require email, uploads of resumes, and online assessments. 


At Zapppos, the company has created "Zappos Insiders." According to the company:
Zappos Insiders are simply people who might want to work for Zappos someday… now, tomorrow or sometime down the road. It’s like a special membership for people who want to stay in touch with us, learn more about our fun, zany culture, know what’s happening at our company, get special insider perspectives and receive team-specific updates from the areas you’re most interested in. There is no better way to stay in-the-know and for us to get to know each other than by becoming an Insider.
What are the benefits?  
  • Be the first to know about job opportunities in your desired job family
  • Stay in-the-know about the latest news and happenings here at Zappos
  • Chat with the Zappos recruiting team during our bi-weekly Tweetchats
  • Gain exclusive access to online & in person events with current Zappos employees
People who do not have broadband access at home or on their phones are unable to obtain the benefits of being a Zappos Insider - they are the last to know about job opportunities, they are unable to stay in-the-know about the latest Zappos news, they cannot chat with Zappos recruiting teams during their bi-weekly Tweetchats, and  they are denied exclusive access to online events with current Zapppos employees.

Zappos' website has the following line:

Poke. Like. Share. Join the Conversation @InsideZappos

The only way to poke, like, share or join the conversation is with a broadband connection. Poor persons, and others with limited broadband connectivity seemingly need not apply.

As Aristotle wrote, “There is nothing so unequal as the equal treatment of unequals.” It is for this reason that employment laws like Title VII prohibit facially neutral policies (e.g.,  enrolling in Zappos Insider, necessitating broadband internet access, and using social media platforms with varying degrees of accessibility ) that disproportionately affect protected persons and that are not related to the job and the needs of the business.

Zappos' Insider may be a club that is "open" to everyone, but persons with lower socioeconomic status, disproportionately Blacks, Hispanics, persons with mental illness, and women will have a harder time being admitted and will be limited in their ability to use all the club has to offer.

See also Zappos Insider: The Death of Job Postings and the Rise of the Borg and Zappos: The Future of Hiring and Hiring Discrimination.


According to Knack, it is a game-based, science-driven, data-powered talent-matching platform.

Knack "games" like Wasabi Waiter, Dash Dash, Bomba Blitz and Meta Maze purportedly analyze every millisecond of player behavior, measuring conscientiousness, emotion recognition, and other attributes that, according to the company, academic studies show correlate with job performance. The games then score each player’s likelihood of becoming an outstanding employee.

Knack's assessments are based on games developed by the company that may be "played" on computers and mobile devices. According to the company:
Knack uses its breakthrough, scalable technology to provide disadvantaged and marginalized people around the world with an empowering gateway to social and economic mobility. Helping people tap into their true potential will increase their well-being, break persistent cycles of poverty, and make them hopeful about the future.
And yet Knack's fundamental structure - online games played by persons with broadband Internet connections over computers and mobile devices - further disadvantages those on the other side of the digital divide: those who do not have ready access to broadband, those who must rely on public libraries for limited Internet access.

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