Q: How should we respond when an applicant reveals during an interview that they are part of a protected class?
A: If an applicant reveals protected information (e.g. religion, sexual orientation, birthplace), your primarily responsibility is to make sure you do not allow this information to become a factor in determining whether to hire them.
If an applicant expresses concern as to whether their inclusion in a protected class will harm their chances of being hired, assure them it will not. I would recommend telling them that you will be making the decision solely on their ability to perform the essential functions of the job.
If there is any written follow-up to the interview, you may want to include the following in that communication (we also recommend this language in your job postings):
"The Company is an Equal Opportunity Employer. Equal employment opportunity includes, but is not limited to, employment, training, promotion, demotion, transfer, leaves of absence, and termination. All applications will be considered only on the basis of the applicant's knowledge, skills, and ability to perform the essential functions of the position, with or without reasonable accommodation. It is our established policy to provide equal employment opportunities to all qualified persons without regard to race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, gender, sexual orientation, age, national origin, physical or mental disability, military or veteran status, genetic information, citizenship status, or any other protected classification, in accordance with applicable federal, state, and local laws."
Improve your hiring process by watching our free webinar, “Hire Right the First Time: 4 Steps to Successful Recruiting & Interviewing.”