Birthday Made Public

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about disclosure of personal information:

Does the employee have to write a personal bio and then see it published at the workplace?

Signed, Ageless

Dear Ageless:

I imagine you have recently seen your birthday published in a workplace memo or news sheet, and you resent that. You probably are a private person, or at least do not want to have people saying, “Bill or Beth doesn’t look that old” or worse still, “Beth or Bill looks older than that. Is that her/his real age?” People are curious. People talk. People find small talk a way of feeling they are in the know. People need to feel they belong and belonging comes from social knowledge about the ups and downs of others who are in their little circle of the world.

You title you query as “Birthdays”; but your query reaches well beyond whether a workplace can require you to reveal your birthday and can publish it. Your question appears to be more than resentment, it hinges on what is required in the way of personal disclosure at work. It is raises the issue of privacy and personal confidence in oneself. The answer that follows to your short question will be more than you probably need or want to know, but it won’t hurt or clutter your brain.

In order to get more expertise than have I asked one of our occasional guest respondents who is a Manager of Human Resources, Dan Kearney, about this, I asked: What personal data is required of an employee–her/his birthday? address & phone? previous employment? SS? Sex? etc., and what might not be required by state and federal law? And what might an employer reasonably expect to be supplied by an employee? Dan replied: This is what is required: · Name, Address and Phone Number · Age? Only for 18 years or older. Minors can only work a limited amount of time each week. · Whether you are legally entitled to work in the U.S. – need a “Green Card” · What position you are applying for? · What position(s) you would like to be considered for? · Can you work overtime? · If you are hired, when you can start work? · Education – all of it · Employment history (mostly last 10 years) · Special training An employer can use an application to inform a prospective employee about employment terms but must get an employee’s permission to gather background information, such as verification of education and employment and credit info. The last one will cost you anywhere for 2 to 4 points OFF you credit for each inquiry.Then there’s the BFOQ “Bona Fide Occupational Qualification” – sometimes one’s sex is a BFOQ such as being a priest or nun, working at a bra-fitting store, men’s room attendant. What is illegal is any question that falls under Title VII – See Civil Rights Act of 1973. ** This information supplied by Mr. Kearney, who must handle hiring and personnel matters, answers the question about what an employer can ask of you, and in particular what an employer can ask in a job interview. Your question, however, is not legal and more pertains to a social network within your work setting.

Dan’s addition note that refers to age and a personal profile specifically recommends that you loosen up: What is being asked of the employee is to write a description of him/herself as an introduction to others. In other words, Who is this person? We’ve all read them, especially in faculty bios. Have the questioner read some and perhaps he’ll get a better idea. HR would edit it if it contained any info that is in violation of Title VII. He doesn’t have to supply his age. But tell her/him to lighten . . . up. They’re not asking for his criminal record or whether he looks at porn on the internet. Geeeeeezzzz!!!

Dan’s flare of exclamation that ends this paragraph, implies that you are overly concerned about to what I referred when I implied your question that deals with privacy might be more one of self-confidence. So enjoy the spirit of getting to know your coworkers and for them to better know you. Don’t be overly personal or specific in what you disclose, but let them know about your outside interests, perhaps the size of your family or the one in which you grew up, one of your concerns such as world peace, and if asked don’t fudge on your age or simply ignore the question. Age/birthday is something we all have.

A celebrity’s age almost always makes the news, as does that of politicians and criminals. Why be uncomfortable about yours going public? As Dan says, “loosen up”! Hopefully your more important concerns will make birthdays of little significance. What really matters is doing quality work, surviving these tough times, and finding ways to make your job and life outside a little more fun. Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS, and sometimes that even can mean revealing one’s birthday.

Dan Kearney, Guest Respondent and William Gorden