Trendy terms can get you in trouble

by Michael Haberman on May 19, 2015 · 0 comments

When trying to attract new “talent” many companies try to make their job listings stand out from the crowd. This is certainly a smart strategy, unless that trendy term you decided to use gets you in trouble.

Is "digital native" code for "old people need not apply?"

Is “digital native” code for “old people need not apply?”

Two well-known blogging lawyers I know recently pointed out a “trendy” term that could actually be construed as age discrimination. Both Jon Hyman and Robin Shea reported on the term “digital native” that Fortune reported many companies were starting to use in their recruitment advertising. They both say that this term can be perceived as code for “only young people need to apply.”

Shea points out that “digital native” means someone born into the digital world. That is generally considered to be 1990 or later. If that is the intention of the company using the term then they are engaging in age discrimination, which, for those of you who have been asleep since forever, means you are violating the EEOC. Age is a protected category for everyone over the age of 40.

Perhaps it means “tech savvy”?

If the term “digital native” is meant to imply someone who is very adept at knowing their way around a computer, the Internet, and various other technologies then it can be a workable term. Being “digitally adept” does not have to be related to an age. I am more digitally adept than many younger colleagues, despite the fact that I was born much before 1990. If that is the way you mean the term then you certainly need to indicate that description rather than using a term that could be misinterpreted as an age requirement.

If you don’t you may find someone who is “legally adept” suing you for potential age discrimination. Most of us born before 1990 know how to do that very well.

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