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Michigan Governor Issues Order Protecting LGBTQ State Employees: What it Means for Small Business Owners

by Philip GarbaczFebruary 18, 2019 8:00 AM

As a small business owner, you’re in control of your business. However, things that you can’t control can impact your business as well. 

Certain laws and executive orders can potentially require you to change certain processes and policies to protect your company. It’s important to keep an eye out for any news that can lead you to review current practices and make changes, such as when Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order to increase protections that prohibit anti-LGBTQ discrimination in January of 2019. Whether your business is in Michigan or not, it’s a good time to consider how orders like these can impact your day-to-day operations.

A job applicant being interviewed by a small business following non-discrimatory hiring practices. 

What Does This Mean for Your Small Business?

For most businesses, Whitmer’s order won’t change all that much. Outgoing Gov. Rick Snyder signed a directive in December of 2018 that, per the Detroit Free Press, “barred state contractors from discriminating against gay or transgender employees,” with exceptions for churches and religiously-affiliated organizations. The new order removes that exception, but that still puts most small business owners in the same spot as before.

The bigger takeaway from this order is that it’s a part of a bigger trend across the U.S. to extend protections to people seeking employment, whether it’s because of sexual orientation and gender identity or another reason. In addition, LGBTQ and gender discrimination claims are expensive. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces discrimination laws on a federal level and has forced offending employers to pay out more than $3.3 million in monetary relief. As discrimination laws evolve across the country, it’s important to be proactive about potential changes instead of waiting for an issue to arise.

How You Can Protect Your Business During the Hiring Process

Discrimination is a matter of hiring–or not hiring–a candidate for reasons that aren’t based on an applicant’s qualifications. Each state’s anti-discrimination laws can differ, but the best way to avoid potential issues is to have a hiring process in place that treats everyone equally and documents interviews so that you can protect yourself from any anti-discrimination claims.

Establish Set Interview Questions

If you don’t already, create a regimented interview process with standard interview questions that you ask every candidate. This will help you give each applicant an equal opportunity to make their case for the job. You also need to be careful about the questions you ask. Making direct inquiries that impact gender, race, age, or other protected criteria can lead to trouble. 

For example, the Yale Office of Career Strategy notes that inquiries about family information status are potentially illegal in a job interview. A question as simple as “Are you married?” can be viewed as a way to probe for personal information or to even determine a candidate’s sexual orientation, even if it was an innocent attempt at conversation.

Don’t Treat Some Candidates Differently than Others During the Interview Process

No matter the opening, it’s important to conduct every interview the same way no matter who sits in front of you. Use your set list of questions and provide the same type of feedback. Follow-up questions can certainly vary depending on certain responses or specific qualifications, but it’s good to give everyone the same chance to answer the same base list of questions.

Take Notes and Document the Results

As you go through the interview, make sure to write detailed notes about a candidate’s responses for future evaluation. Not only are these notes useful if you have to compare a couple of close candidates, it creates a record of what was said in case an applicant tries to make a discrimination claim. In this case, you can present information on why you hired one candidate over another based on their responses and your notes. 

If possible, it’s also good to conduct interviews with another colleague so that he or she can take notes as well. Not only will this give you another person to help during the interview, it gives you a second set of recorded notes to use in case any claims are filed.

Keep Your Hiring Practices Ahead of the Curve 

Finding and hiring the right job candidates is stressful. When you add in anti-discrimination considerations and other potential pitfalls that you can face in the hiring process, it can be overwhelming. Rules and regulations will continue to change over time, but there is a way that you can be proactive and protect your business.

As a Professional Employer Organization, GMS can be the partner you need to shoulder the administrative burden and strengthen your business’ HR functions. Our team of experts allow you to outsource everything from payroll administration to employee recruitment and training programs. In turn, you not only save the time necessary to run your business, you gain the advantage of working with a group that can keep you up to date on any issues that may impact your company.

Ready to keep your business ahead of the curve? Contact our Detroit office or one of our other locations across the country to talk to one of our experts about how we can help you strengthen your business today.

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