The Employer Background Check & Age Discrimination

Preventing workplace discrimination should be a priority for every business. Most often, though, anti-discrimination efforts focus on the most apparent types of protected categories, such as race or sex. There are other important categories to consider, too, such as age. Age discrimination is a common but less discussed issue in many workplaces. In Colorado, a new law aimed at combating ageism will go into effect soon. It could impact the employer background check process.

What does the law require?

The Job Application Fairness Act(JAFA) will go into effect in Colorado on July 1, 2024. From that date forward, employers throughout the state will no longer be able to ask for some information on an initial job application. This information includes an applicant’s:

  • Date of birth
  • Current age
  • Date of graduation from school or their dates of attendance

Applications may only ask generally about a candidate’s age if there is a clear requirement to do so, for example, if a position prohibits individuals over or under a certain age due to safety concerns. Federal or state regulations that impose age limits also make it permissible to ask, but employers may only inquire about whether the candidate falls within those limitations.

The importance of preventing workplace ageism

The goal of the law is clearly to prevent employers from making an immediate initial judgment against an applicant solely because of their age. Someone might otherwise choose to discard resumes from individuals born before a particular year. Seeing the dates of school attendance might also make a hiring manager decide that the individual is too old.

Age discrimination is not only unfair on its face, but it also robs businesses of opportunities to employ talented and experienced individuals. By removing age-related information from the first point of contact an employer has with an applicant, the goal is to provide a “first look” that’s more fair to everyone.

How will this change impact the criminal record check process? Dates of birth are usually an essential part of matching records to individuals.

What to know about background checks under the new law

The most important aspect of the language of JAFA is that it only prohibits collecting age-related information during the “initial job application” period. Therefore, you remain free to collect this information at a later stage of the hiring process. Remember, Colorado already enforces a “ban the box” law that does not allow asking about criminal history information on an application form.

However, you can still consult a proprietary national criminal database or order other types of criminal record checks at any time in the process. Once you process an applicant’s initial application, you’ve satisfied JAFA requirements. You may conduct an educational or employment verification process to obtain dates of graduation or service at any time.

When you’re ready to check for a criminal record, you can ask an applicant directly or use the self-entry feature from Applicants supply birth date information through this process. With such tools available and an understanding of when you can request age-related information, JAFA compliance should prove simple for most Colorado businesses. Review your employer background check policies and procedures while preparing to update job postings and applications to remove any potentially non-compliant language.

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Michael Klazema

About Michael Klazema The author

Michael Klazema is the lead author and editor for Dallas-based with a focus on human resource and employment screening developments

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