Until Tuesday, teachers applying to work in the four charter schools in the Capital One-New Beginnings network were required to disclose their race, gender and marital status – information that could lead to discrimination lawsuits.

A day after The Lens asked about the unusual application questions, the network removed its application packet from its website. A spokesman said inclusion of those questions in the application was a mistake, and that such information should be gathered only after someone is hired.

The requirement was clear on the network’s website, which has since been changed.

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That employee information sheet was part of the application, and teachers’ applications were considered incomplete if they did not submit it. It was the third item on a list of several requirements.

That type of pre-employment classification poses issues under state and federal law, a government official said.

Neither state nor federal law expressly prohibits an employer from asking an employee or potential employee for race, marital status, gender, or other classifications. But they do forbid an employer from using those classifications to discriminate, or from simply appearing to do so.

That provision makes it easy for rejected applicants to sue if they have been asked these questions, and most employers expressly avoid the questions.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recognizes that employers such as New Beginnings need to ask employees or applicants certain demographical information for federal reporting requirements. The agency itself requires that employers with more than 100 employees provide this sort of information, to ensure that workplaces are diverse and for the commission’s own research.

But the federal agency recommends that employers ask candidates to use a tear-off sheet to provide this sort of information, one that isn’t connected to a candidate’s job application and that doesn’t ask for a candidate’s name, a commission spokeswoman said.

New Beginnings’ information sheet included questions about an applicant’s race, gender, and martial status directly under an applicant’s name, social security number, and teaching certifications. Filling out the sheet was also not optional.

Justine Lisser, an EEOC senior attorney and adviser, said the commission advises companies to avoid asking questions unrelated to a candidate’s qualifications, if at all possible.

“It’s not technically illegal, but…we will look at questions that really don’t seem to go to employment, or to job knowledge,” she said. “We will look upon that as potential evidence of discrimination, if someone were to ever file a charge of discrimination with us.”

The commission’s website lists the various types of discrimination, and it says that generally, when it comes to pre-employment questions, “the information obtained and requested through the pre-employment process should be limited to those essential for determining if a person is qualified for the job…information regarding race, sex, national origin, age, and religion are irrelevant in such determinations.”

Acting on a tip from a concerned reader, The Lens raised the question with New Beginnings. A representative said that the information sheet was included in the application by mistake.

“The document in question – Information Sheet – was actually a post-hire document and was inadvertently placed in the application packet,” network spokesman Paul Dauphin wrote in an email. “This sheet should not have been included in the application packet or posted on our website. We have removed the application packet from the website.”

The network’s removal of the application from the site comes just a week before its annual Teacher Recruitment Fair, set to take place May 31 and June 1.

The network runs Pierre A. Capdau Charter School, Medard H. Nelson Charter School, Gentilly Terrace Charter School, and Lake Area New Tech Early College High School.

Jessica Williams

Jessica Williams stays on top of the city's loosely organized collection of public schools, with a special emphasis on charter schools. In 2011 she was recognized by the Press Club of New Orleans for her...