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Legal changes bring challenges for employers and the job boards they use

If you haven’t been marooned on a desert island for the past week, you probably heard about two major legal changes in the U.S. The country’s Supreme Court greatly expanded access to handguns in one ruling, and eliminated Federal protection for abortion in another. The first affects every person living in the U.S., and the second affects every woman living in the U.S. (Warning: this post is extremely U.S.-centric – so if you’re one of my non-U.S. readers, you may want to skip it!).

So what do these two legal decisions have to do with hiring and job boards?

Well…plenty, I posit. Let me explain.

Employers use job boards to reach candidates – to encourage candidates to apply to their open positions. A key part of marketing to candidates is selling the employer and its benefits. Perhaps the employer is located on a cliff overlooking the ocean, with its own private beach. Perhaps there is 100% healthcare coverage. Perhaps the pay is 20% higher than is typical. The possibilities are endless, as many of you probably remember in the start-up heyday of in-office slides and pool tables.

In the U.S., women make up about 57% of the labor force. It’s possible – even probable – that the abortion decision just made employers’ lives harder in the many states who are prepared to ban abortion. Why? Because over a quarter of women will have an abortion in their lifetime. So will states that prevent that healthcare option be more or less attractive to them? Will we see significant shifts of female employees to or away from specific places? And will certain professions be more or less affected?

Employers will face some tough choices. Do they relocate to a state that is more attractive to half of their employees? Or do they come up with some sort of counter-measure, such as Texas-based Indeed has by offering to cover transportation and care expenses for its employees to obtain a legal abortion in another state?

A similar – but less immediately obvious – challenge faces all U.S. employers with regard to increased handgun access. Workplace violence is already an issue in the U.S. – and increased gun access will inevitably drive up workplace fear of violence. Employee disagreements could quickly become deadly if handguns are omnipresent. What’s an employer to do? Should they advertise their offices as ‘hardened’? Offer remote work to all employees? Arm all employees as a condition of employment? Ban handguns in the workplace?

So these legal decisions – as have certain decisions in the past – affect hiring for employers. How do they affect job boards?

As mentioned above, job boards exist to connect candidates and employers. At the simplest level, they do so by promoting employers and their employment opportunities to candidates in a variety of ways. But the core of this promotion is information. We’ve known for a long time that if you include salary information in a job posting, you will get a higher and usually more qualified applicant response. I believe that job boards will need to offer additional ways for employers to communicate about their benefits with regard to women’s healthcare and workplace safety. I don’t expect the majority of employers will want to touch either of these – but those that do will see a better response rate from candidates. For those sites that have explicit diversity and employer branding offerings, they will need to expand their options to include these topics.

The long term challenge for U.S. job boards? This particular Supreme Court seems comfortable with overturning long-established law – so these may not be the last ruling to affecting hiring. Judge Thomas mentioned in his assent that he is interested in revisiting the laws governing contraception and marriage equality. Stay tuned.

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