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Monday, January 14, 2008


We are hiring for a number of positions around the area (San Francisco Bay Area). We need truck drivers who can get to multiple locations easily. One week they may start at one site, the next at another.

An applicant called in and I asked if he could come for an interview tomorrow. He said he had to check with his wife about getting a lift. I asked how he intended to get to work if he didn't have reliable transportation and he said "oh I'll make it one way or another".

Now I think, based on not having reliable transportation to get to a job is a reason for not hiring someone. I understand that everyone needs to work, but why set them and us up for failure? Public transporation will not be easy to most of these job sites. Alsom some of the shifts are night shifts so no public transportation will be available. Is it legal to deny somebody employment based on them not having reliable transportation?

And now time for the standard disclaimers. I am not a lawyer. I do not work in California, but I do know that California has some whacked out employment laws, so what I say may be completely irrelevant in California. (I, for one, have no desire to live there. Difficult HR world, fires, floods, mudslides, snow storms and Nancy Pelosi? Blech.)

My understanding is that you can't discriminate against someone based on their method of getting to work. You can, however, make the ability to get to work on time, regardless of the location or shift, a requirement of the job.

I wouldn't be thrilled about this person anyway, based on his response of "I'll have to check with my wife." Why? Because he should stand up and be a man and not check with her for anything! Just kidding. Just briefly channeling Dr. Laura again. No, because he shows bad judgment in telling you that. When you are job hunting, you need to know when you are available and when you are not. It's okay to say, "I'm sorry, but I'm unavailable on Tuesday, but I could come in on Wednesday or Thursday." You make arrangements with you spouse prior to sending out the resumes.

(On a similar vein, all answering machine messages should be changed to be formal. "You've reached the Jones residence. Please leave a message." No, "Timmy, say hello. Timmy! Timmy, tell the nice people to leave a message." Aargh!)

You need to ask clearly on your job application (for all jobs), "Do you have reliable transportation?" Then you have to accept a yes or no answer and not inquire further.

For jobs such as this that require multiple sites and shifts, you should state: "This job requires the incumbent to be at a variety of sites and shifts that are not served by public transportation. Lack of attendence and tardiness are grounds for termination. Do you have reliable transportation?" Then have a check box for yes or no and accept that as gospel truth.

They may have only one car and his wife will have to drive him if she wants a car during the day, but she may work from home, or be a homemaker (there's a term from the past), or have a flexible job that allows her to take time off to provide transportation for her husband and this won't be a problem. Or, one of their cars may be in the shop right then, but it will be out next Tuesday.

Sounds like a hard position to fill. Good luck on that!


Just another HR lady... said...

I used to work for an organization where not only getting to your shifts was an absolute requirement, but getting there ON TIME each and every single time was a requirement. (people on planes get very cranky when staff are late!)

It was a standard interview question to ask people if they had reliable transportation to work (there was no public transportation to this location) and then go on to explain why we ask the question.

You'd be surprised at how honest people are in an interview about their skepticism about being able to make it to work regularly if they don't have their own transportation. Those people would be screened out on the basis that they stated that they were unsure if they could make it to work regularly.

Unfortunatley, your person did not state that he couldn't make it to work, so you will have to make sure that you re-iterate in your interview that there is no public transport in your area and go from there. I have actually interviewed people in the process of purchasing a car because they knew that if they got this particular job, they would need it. That was always impressive!

Katherine said...

I work and hire in California, and we ask the 'reliable transportation' question all of the time!

When I or my managers select a candidate, the non-selected candidates get a standard "thank you for applying, we received many qualified applicants, while you weren't the best fit at this time, we'll keep your application on file for one year and encourage you to apply for other positions", which is our standard CYA.

We don't tell them why they weren't selected. We do keep interview notes and questionnaires for each candidate that have a rating sheet attached, and the candidate we select is always one of the highest rated. In the seven years I've worked here, we've only had a couple complaints that were easily dealt with "we hired the best qualified candidate".

The one time someone tried to play the race card, "You didn't hire me because I'm black!" it didn't go very far because the person who was selected was also black, which made it very easy to prove we didn't discriminate in our hiring! The complainer rescheduled her interview 3 times, and then was late because she 'got lost'. She also didn't interview well and had a lot of short terms at various employers.

Ms Bart said...

I manage an IT support team in Boston. I'm fortunate to have a very good and highly dependable public transit system in our area. Yesterday, we had eight inches of snow and the entire department made it in. (People working from home tend to need more telephone support than those working in the controlled office environs.) I won't bother interviewing people who won't be able to make it to work in snow. During the phone screen, if I think they are going to be a good face-to-face candidate, I offer directions to the office. When they complain about distance / inconvenience/ etc for a face-to-face interview, they are not going to be hired.