It’s been a little over a century since signs like “No Irish Need Apply” were posted in the windows of shops, and the “Help Wanted — Male” and “Help Wanted — Female” ads that were routine when I entered the work world, have been gone for decades as well. However, don’t think that the mentality of job discrimination has changed all that much, because there was a big racist snafu at a recruiting firm in Virginia a few days ago. Here’s what initially went out into the world.

Now, here’s the other jewel.

You’ll have to hit Ctrl + to expand the text so you can read it, but the orange-highlighted words are “female candidate only” and this is for a sales job. FYI, the only time you can justify a job as gender-specific is when circumstances dictate that the job is covered under a Bona Fide Occupational Qualification (BFOQ).

These are situations where sex matters–for instance you can recruit only women to play female roles in a play or hire only men to help elder men shower in a nursing home. A sales role, as described above, is extremely unlikely to meet the strict qualifications for a BFOQ.

In fact, I can’t think of a single way you could twist a sales job to be single gender.

I took these screenshots Sunday afternoon and Cynet Systems posted this after 10 p.m. EST on a Sunday, and the job postings were scrubbed around the same time. I spoke with a company spokesman who said both of these mistakes were made by the same employee who was new, and that Cynet is an equal opportunity employer and this does not reflect their values. A post on Twitter further revealed how the company responded internally:

The attempt to make nice-nice was not graciously received.

What I can share from experience, is that many years ago I worked down the hall from a recruiting agency. I made friends with a few of the “headhunters” (one of whom was black and from Africa, and did we howl about his job title) and we would have lunch and talk shop. These people made it quite clear that there were two conversations that were had with a client: 1. In a perfect world, who do you want in this job? 2. The world being anything but perfect, are you prepared to accept the candidates we can realistically provide you, and not run totally afoul of the law?

In the real world, non-offensive ads would go out and the internal notes would be applied in the interviewing process. If “preferably Caucasian” or “female only” was what the client really wanted, reasons were found to highly rate the people who fit those categories in initial interviews, so as to get them into the final interviewing rounds.

What I can only speculate here is that some supposed copywriter got hold of notes that shouldn’t have been taken in the first place, but if they were taken, should have either been hidden or marked “confidential.” What is also obvious is that the copywriter was totally clueless. From having been on the other side of the job coin, and having placed ads for workers, I can tell you that every reputable recruiting firm apprises the employer of Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act, which “prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin.” This is the boilerplate language that everybody knows going in.

For somebody who actually writes ads for a living to not know the golden rule of the business, the one law that everything else stems from, makes me think that these screw ups weren’t the doing of one new employee, but rather a reflection of workplace culture. And bear in mind at all times, a lot of people in business, who used to bury their true inclinations, like a cat buries it’s doo doo, now feel empowered in the age of Trump to let it all hang out.

On election night, a friend of mine who is transgender, (and openly weeping about the election of Trump) shared a revelation of hers. She said, “I now see that people haven’t been accepting me, they’ve been tolerating me.” I said that maybe that was true. The fact that so many people had voted for Trump was nothing if not a validation of the dark side of American culture and a testament to how backwards many people still were in their thinking. This employment story today doesn’t surprise me in the slightest. I see it as just one more rock on the pile.


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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.


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