“Traumatic”: Company asks applicants how many ‘stillborns’ they’ve had

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Chevron has been heavily criticised for its recruitment process after one female job seeker exposed the company’s pre-employment questionnaire. Among the highly personal questions were queries asking how many ‘stillbirths’ and ‘medical abortions’ she had experienced.

"It was a traumatic experience filling out that form and I'm not joking," the applicant told Fairfax Media.

The questions, which followed several more standard and accepted queries, appeared on the medical form under a section titled ‘Reproductive Outcomes’. The questions also asked about applicants’ partners, such as if they had been ‘sterilized’.

Further questions looked into the fertility of the applicant and their partner by asking if they had tried to conceive recently.

The form also included questions regarding sexually transmitted diseases and missed menstrual periods, and a disclaimer saying if the questions were not answered truthfully the application may be rejected.

"I was furious, how can I speak for my partner? On a form? It's not right," the applicant said.

More probing questions were asked of live births, including if the child was ‘normal’.

Chevron released a statement saying the company was guided by industry standards, and that applicants were not discriminated on based on their medical history. While the statement emphasized answering were voluntary, the form also instructed men and women to answer ‘all’ questions.

Although the questions were for both men and women, the applicant stated there was a clear slant towards women.

"They are gender-specific questions geared towards women but if you're a guy you can breeze through … I was shocked because Chevron is the kind of organization that [does] value women, that's why I applied for a job with them in the first place, and this seems so disconnected to that."

She added the currently weak employment market placed more pressure on job seekers to provide personal information even if they did not really want to. "They have all the power and you have none.”

The report does not specify which country the job was based in, but the spelling on the forms makes it likely it was the U.S. Other U.S. employers have shown greater interest in their employees’ health as employer-provided health insurance becomes more common and legislated.

*Image source: Fairfax Media/Daily Life.

  • Chris on 2013-10-10 11:07:59 AM

    There is a right time and place to collect health information (i.e. post-hire to determine eligibility for an employer-sponsored benefits package) however even under those circumstances this line of questioning seems to go too far! I'm confident that, in Canada, this would NEVER appear on an application for employment!

  • Kelly on 2013-10-10 11:24:33 AM

    Maybe it's because I am a parent that has grieved a stillborn baby or because I then became a facilitator for a peer organization that helps parents cope with this loss, but I'm embarrassed to be an HR professional when I see this type of information.

    Maybe it's me, maybe I am not knowledgeable enough to know how this would be a work place requirement or need.

  • Patti on 2013-10-11 9:00:31 AM

    The type of questions appearing on the application are discrimminatory and appaling. At no time during employment in any position do the above questions become a factor. Agreed that certain medical questions can be requested, however they must have be bona fide to the position and only after an offer of employment. Chevron's HR department, or the person responsible for this line of questioning, should be ashamed.

  • Jeanne on 2013-10-15 12:06:10 PM

    I find this line of questionning (optional or otherwise) to be completely irrelevant and intrusive on the applicant's privacy. I certainly would never provide that type of information to a prospective employer when the information is irrelevant to the job I would be performing.

    Overall, it has even put a bad taste in my mouth about even using the company for their product.

    poor poor poor taste.

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