A security company extensively screened women seeking employment with Bill Gates by asking invasive questions about “their sexual histories, past drug use and other parts of their private lives” in order to “indicate they were vulnerable to blackmail,” according to new reporting by The Wall Street Journal on Thursday. The newspaper couldn’t find any male candidates who were asked similar questions for the same job.
Among the nosy questions being asked were about the job candidates’ pornography habits, any extramarital affairs they’ve had, if they kept nudes/sexts on their phones, and if they’ve ever “danced for dollars.”
The security firm Concentric Advisors, who reportedly asked women the invasive questions, told the Journal that its screening protocols are in compliance with employment laws. A Gates Ventures spokesperson (the billionaire’s private office) said the questioning was out of line. “This line of questioning would be unacceptable and a violation of Gates Ventures’ agreement with the contractor,” she told The Journal.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission legal counsel Carol Miaskoff said questions about health like psychiatric history is “just flat out prohibited” by the Americans With Disabilities Act; but while the questions about the candidates’ sex lives were gross invasion of privacy, Miaskoff said those are actually allowed. “There’s not a black letter law prohibition on asking questions related to sex,” Miaskoff told WSJ. The employer may run into problems when using the acquired information against the candidate, she said, but “getting the information and taking some adverse action with that information”—such as rejecting the candidate—could lay the basis for a legal challenge.
In a longer statement, the Gates Ventures spokesperson said this kind of thing hadn’t come up in more than a decade of work. “We have never received information from any vendor or interviewee in our 15+ year history that inappropriate questions were asked during the screening process,” she said in a statement to the newspaper. “We can confirm, that after a comprehensive review of our records, no employment offer has ever been rescinded based on information of this nature.”
Well, at least there’s that, I guess.