An Inclusive Litany

9/25/02

Writing in the New York Law Journal, Tamara Loomis reports on companies that have received a staggering number of resumes during the recent recessionary shock, most via electronic mail. Boeing and Lockheed Martin, for example, are each receiving up to 1.4 million resumes annually, and the numbers are growing at an alarming rate.

But under the standard enacted by the Department of Labor in 1995, anyone who submits a resume in this open-ended manner is considered an "applicant" regardless of qualifications for any particular job. And every company with more than 100 employees must track the race, gender and ethnicity of each of its applicants—data the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission uses to detect discriminatory hiring practices.

It is unclear how companies are supposed to ask the huge numbers of people sending them e-mail for information on their race and gender while simultaneously turning them down for a job, at least not without inviting such discrimination lawsuits. In the face of criticism over what is widely perceived as an unworkable rule, the Office of Management and Budget ordered the EEOC to update its definition of a job applicant, but it has been unable to do so after two years of study. A report scheduled for December that was delayed three times already has now been put on indefinite hold.

As a result, companies flooded with resumes have simply been storing them, in many cases using custom database software that costs around $500,000. "I know of a company that keeps a warehouse in Salt Lake City just to store resumes," said EEOC Chairwoman Cari Dominguez. "They're just so afraid of throwing them away."

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