Can Employers Discriminate Based on School?

Employers care more about your skill than which college you attended.
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Hunting for a job can bring loads of stress, and much of it concerns how employers will perceive you. Most employers factor in the kind of degree you earned and your college grades. These details give employers insight into your intelligence, work ethic and breadth of knowledge. Some job-seekers fear that employers will discriminate based on where they went to college. If you have this concern, understanding workplace discrimination rules may benefit you in your quest to land a job.

Federal Discrimination Laws

    The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission lists federal discrimination laws on its website. They include the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. These laws prohibit employers from discriminating against certain groups based on sex, religion, national origin, race or disability. None of these laws have language that makes it illegal for employers to discriminate based on which high school or college you attended.

College Factor

    While many job applicants perceive employers to hire applicants who attended prestigious universities, most employers care more about the grades you earned, the experience you gained in your chosen field and what your references have to say about you, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune. Your college plays a more important role if some applicants for a job attended a school with a track record of excellence in your degree area. For example, U.S. News and World Report ranks the Massachusetts Institute of Technology second in the nation among schools with business programs.

Type of School

    The type of college you attended may play a more important role in an employer’s decision-making process than the name of the school. If you attended a university and earned a bachelor’s degree, an employer will give you more consideration than an employee with an associate’s degree from a community college. Some employers also prefer to hire individuals who attended a brick-and-mortar college. They believe that online degrees do not provide students with experience solving problems in a team environment, and working in a team is crucial in the business world.

Discrimination Disguised as College Preference

    Some colleges attract students of a particular color, race, ethnicity or religion. For example, Brigham Young University's students are 99 percent Mormon, and 94 percent of those enrolled at Bethune Cookman College are minority students, according to the universities' websites. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, employers may not discriminate based on stereotypes or assumptions about an applicant's race, color, ethnicity, age or religion. Therefore, it would be illegal for an employer to turn away applicants from a college based on an assumption of the applicant's color, race, ethnicity, age or religion.

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