Hiring Checklist

The first few months in the year are a great time for job seekers to be on the lookout for new openings and opportunities. There tends to be an influx in workers seeking a change. As such, it is a good idea to review your company’s hiring process and ensure you are complying with both federal and state law.

Job applicants have legal rights even before they become an employee. Moreover, job applicants have legal rights even if they ultimately do not secure an interview. The most obvious of which, is an employer cannot discriminate in it’s hiring practice based on the applicant’s race, national origin, gender, age, disability, or religion. Iowa additionally prohibits discrimination based on creed, sexual orientation, gender identity, or if the applicant is pregnant.

Employers must abide by federal and Iowa anti-discrimination laws at each stage of the hiring process. This encompasses everything from posting a job opening, to interviewing, to the eventual hiring of the applicant. According to rules issued by the Iowa Civil Rights Commission, any preemployment inquiry that expresses directly or indirectly a limitation, specification, or discrimination as to a protected characteristic is unlawful unless based on a bona fide occupational qualification necessary for the job in question.

After the applicant is hired and has accepted the position, there are certain procedures that must be followed prior to the new employee beginning work. The employer must (1) obtain a federal employment identification number for each new employee, from the Internal Revenue Service; (2) register with their state’s employment department for payment of unemployment compensation taxes for each new employee; (3) set up the employee’s pay system to withhold taxes to be paid to the IRS; (4) obtain workers’ compensation insurance for the employee; and (5) assist the employee with registration for employee benefits.

It is crucial for the employer to follow the proper procedures or you may find yourself in trouble with the IRS or Iowa’s Division of Labor. Also ensure you have the required notices posted in the workplace for compliance with OSHA and the Department of Labor. New employees must be made aware of the posting of the notices and informed of their content.

It is always good to refresh yourself on the hiring process. However, there are also some lesser known issues that can arise that you should be aware of. Iowa is an at-will employment state. Meaning the employment relationship can be terminated by the employer or employee at any time. But any promises made to the applicant during an interview, such as we’ll employ you for at least two years may become part of an implied contact.

For example, if you terminate the employee after only six months, you may have breached an implied contract and will be responsible to the employee for any money damages the employee incurred in relying on your promise. Avoid any false statements during the hiring process or after. These promises or statements can involve anything from employee benefits to general work place policies.

Joseph Rust is an Associate Attorney with the Sullivan & Ward Professional Corporation. He can be reached at (515) 247-4721 or JRust@Sullivan-Ward.com.