How (And Why) to Nail Job Description Compliance in 2024

In today’s highly regulated business environment, ensuring compliance in every aspect of operations is key, and this includes job description compliance. While artifacts of the hiring process such as interview questions, background checks, and written offers clearly warrant legal oversight, job posts – perhaps surprisingly, given how much leeway most businesses give their employees to write them – must also adhere to a number of rules and regulations. And that number is proliferating at an unprecedented rate.

From long-standing Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) requirements to recent pay transparency laws, changing-by-the-day AI guidelines, and beyond, hiring teams must navigate an increasingly complex landscape of legal stipulations to avoid what can be costly penalties. 

But job description compliance is about more than reducing risk. Organizations that maintain the highest standards of job description compliance reap the rewards of a fair and inclusive hiring process – a stronger employer brand, a more diverse pool of qualified candidates, and a shorter time to fill, just to name a few. In this article, we delve into all the major federal and local regulations governing job ads in the United States today and provide practical tips for not only complying with them, but also creating top job posts and hiring standards that deliver for candidates and your business.

EEO Requirements: Where Job Description Compliance Begins 

The foundation of job description regulations lies in the principles of Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO). Enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), these national laws prohibit discrimination based on factors including, but not limited to, race, gender, disability, and age. (For this reason, you may be concerned that asking for years of experience in a job post is ageism, but in most cases, it’s not an EEO violation.)

There’s no one blanket law that applies to all protected classes, so as a talent acquisition leader, you’re responsible for understanding the many individual statutes that could affect your hiring practices and, more specifically, warrant job description compliance. The most relevant and important laws include:

  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)
  • Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 (CRA 1866)
  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
  • The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA)
  • The Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA)
  • The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), including the Equal Pay Act of 1963

For detailed explanations of each, review our US Job Description Compliance Law 101 guide. Overall, you must ensure that your job ads – and, of course, your hiring process in general – are free of any language or requirements that could be viewed as discriminatory toward one or more protected groups. Including a comprehensive equal opportunity employer statement (also known as an EOE, EEO, DEI, or diversity statement) and accommodation statement in every job you publish is one reliable way to largely comply with EEO laws. 

Although following anti-discrimination laws is non-negotiable, there’s no actual rule that mandates EOE and/or accommodation statements in job descriptions. As long as your ads don’t explicitly exclude job seekers from applying or being considered on account of their gender, race, and so on, you’re likely in compliance.

But diversity statements don’t just satisfy your legal obligations. In our study of how DEI statements perform, we found that simply adding one to a job post significantly impacts how inclusive job seekers perceive an organization to be. And inclusivity improves the diversity of the candidates you attract and hire – as well as positively impacts your recruiting efficiency since fewer biases mean fewer bottlenecks.

(Beyond adding an EOE statement, there are many other ways to make your job posts more inclusive and effective, even if they’re technically compliant. While subtly biased language like “recent college grad” and “native English speaker” isn’t illegal, it deters qualified talent and makes it harder for hiring teams to meet their goals.)     

Pay Transparency: A Radical and Rapid Shift in Job Description Compliance

As social norms evolve, so do the regulations around job ads. In recent years, a growing emphasis on pay equity has led to the introduction of pay transparency laws in various locations across the US. 

Pay transparency laws aim to promote fairness in the workplace by requiring employers to disclose salary information in job posts or, in some cases, upon a job seeker’s request. States including New York, Washington, and California have enacted specific legislation mandating employers to provide reasonable salary ranges for open positions. (I.e., a job description promising $50,000-$1,000,000 is not a compliant job description.)

New cities and states draft, advance, and pass their own bills all the time, making pay transparency compliance a maze of jurisdictions, effective dates, and local nuances that gets more confusing by the day. (Washington State, for example, uniquely demands that firms outline total compensation, from pay to health care to retirement plans and any other benefits.) 

Failure to follow these laws can result in fines and legal repercussions, making it crucial for TA and hiring teams to understand and adhere to the rules. In February 2024, Tesla and Wall Street Journal parent company News Corp. were two of the first companies to face enforcement actions from New York City’s Commission on Human Rights, which filed complaints against over thirty employers and job boards such as ZipRecruiter.

But monetary damages are only one risk. (And if you work at Tesla, they’re probably negligible.) Reputational damage may be as much of or a greater risk in a world where, according to LinkedIn, a massive 91% of people state that salary information impacts their decision to apply for a job.

At best, neglecting to include salary information in your job descriptions is likely to deter some qualified talent from applying, either on principle or simply because they’re not sure whether the compensation you’re offering warrants giving time and energy to your hiring process. At worst, failing to provide the pay transparency job seekers have come to expect taints your employer brand, signaling a company that doesn’t treat people – outside or inside the organization – with fairness and respect.        

Technological Revolution, Compliance Evolution

Between local and federal laws, old and new, job description compliance is complicated for even the most well-intentioned TA teams. But with the current pace of progress in tech, data, and AI, it’s likely going to go from ‘complicated’ to ‘head-spinning’ in a few short years.

For instance, the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) fundamentally changed the landscape of data privacy regulation in the United States when it was enacted in 2018. While initially aimed at protecting the privacy rights of California consumers, the CCPA also carries implications for employers. Under the CCPA, employers are considered “businesses” and must comply with the act’s requirements if they meet certain criteria, such as having annual gross revenues exceeding $25 million, handling personal information of at least 50,000 consumers, households, or devices, or gaining 50% or more of their annual revenues from selling consumers’ personal information.

For TA teams, job description compliance with the CCPA involves giving clear notice to potential applicants about the collection, use, and sharing of their personal information. While you can achieve this pretty easily by putting a link in your job posts to your privacy policy (assuming it’s sufficient),  CCPA compliance extends far beyond job ads and even what we tend to think of as the traditional hiring process end to end. 

For one, you must put robust security measures in place to protect applicant data from unauthorized access or disclosure. (Relatedly, if you wish to use data for purposes other than what was originally disclosed, you have to obtain explicit consent.) Additionally, you must establish procedures for handling applicants’ requests to access, delete, or correct personal information, while maintaining ongoing compliance to avoid penalties and lawsuits. Not exactly what we usually think of as Talent Acquisition’s remit!

Furthermore, if you incorporate AI into your hiring process, you not only need to do so responsibly but also comply with laws that dictate deployment and disclosure. Just a handful are already on the books, but we can only expect a barrage in the near future as government officials begin to more fully grasp the inner workings, use cases, and potential risks of AI.

Today, the legislation that requires the most attention in the context of job description compliance is New York City’s Local Law 144. (Despite, or perhaps in light of, the fact that only eighteen of 391 employers analyzed were found to be in compliance after it had been in effect for six months.)

Local Law 144 mandates that, among other things, employers hiring in NYC and using automated employment decision tools (AEDT) to “substantially assist or replace human decision-making” must provide transparency to potential applicants ahead of time – and give them the opportunity to opt out. You can technically comply with the law by publishing this information on your careers site in “a clear and conspicuous manner.” But you can ensure compliance by including it directly in your job ads.     

Realizing the Benefits of Job Description Compliance

As you’ve probably gathered by now, posting compliant jobs offers several benefits to your hiring teams and business. Most obviously, by following legal regulations, you lessen the risk of fines and lawsuits. Additionally, you attract diverse qualified talent by highlighting the equity of your hiring process and enhancing your reputation as an inclusive workplace. Demonstrating a commitment to fair and transparent hiring practices further builds a winning employer brand and fosters trust among job seekers and the broader community.

Of course, understanding the advantages of job description compliance doesn’t necessarily make it easier to enforce compliance consistently and at scale across your entire organization. That’s where job description compliance software like Datapeople comes in.

Datapeople’s Smart Editor guides hiring teams to comply with EEO and pay transparency laws in real time as they write or edit job posts. And with Datapeople Insights, you can instantaneously audit all your live jobs, zero in on those where compliance is lacking, and swiftly fix anything out of line.

Datapeople also facilitates the creation, distribution, and usage of job post templates, which are critical in managing job description compliance at scale. Templates enable hiring teams to write compliant (and otherwise uniform, branded) job posts every time without having to reinvent the wheel – or risk forgetting to include necessary content such as the role’s salary range or your company’s diversity statement. All of that standard copy is already there, helping your business stay compliant and your hiring teams craft high-performing job posts in minutes – not hours or days.

In a regulatory environment that’s changing all the time, leveraging technology to reduce risk – and drastically improve efficiency while doing so – is a no-brainer. That said, you should always consult with your internal employment counsel on changes to the law and how you should respond.

Don’t Just Reduce Risk. Reap the Rewards.

By understanding legal requirements, implementing best practices, and staying informed about changes in regulations, you can ensure that your job ads adhere to all the latest laws, attract a diverse pool of qualified candidates, and paint a positive image of your organization. While you clearly want to avoid monetary damages as a result of noncompliance, reputational damage can be even more harmful in the long term, making it harder to compete for talent and onboard the people you need to drive your business forward. 

A compliant hiring process is inherently fair and efficient. Is your hiring process all of these things? Request a free process audit and find out! We’ll help you see what’s working and identify areas to improve – from your job descriptions all the way to the offer stage.

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