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Is it illegal for us to ask for an applicant's date of birth?

While asking an applicant for his or her date of birth (DOB) is not unlawful, how the employer uses that information might be. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) protects individuals by prohibiting discrimination against those age 40 and older and asking applicants for their DOB may cast doubt as to how that information is used. Therefore, the employer will want to take care not to use or appear to be using the DOB in making employment or employment-related decisions.

Often, an applicant’s DOB is required to facilitate the most effective background check. Consider these ideas for reducing the employer's exposure in requesting the DOB when running background checks:

• Separate the background check authorization form and request for the DOB from the employment application.

• Use the vendor's own authorization form with their logo and company name rather than having the employer's name or logo on the form.

• Ask the vendor if an equally effective background check could be performed by having just the month and day of birth.

• Share DOBs on a strict need-to-know basis only (i.e., with the background check vendor or employer representative conducting the background check).

• Ask the vendor if it can provide the service of collecting the DOB for the employer, such as by phone, text, e-mail or fax.

• Provide the applicant with a stamped envelope addressed to the background check vendor for the worker to return the authorization form.

In addition, consider including a statement like the following with the request for the DOB:

"Applicants are considered for employment without regard to age, race, color, religion, sex, national origin, marital or veteran status, medical condition, or disability. Date of birth is required from all applicants to facilitate a background check." 


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