The only thing that should matter when you apply for a job is your ability to do the job. Your race, gender, religion, national origin, or age shouldn't matter. Neither should your sexual orientation. So why is DoorDash asking applicants to share their sexual orientations as part of the job application process? Job seekers and employers alike will be interested in the answer.

A poster at Reddit's r/mildlyinfuriating subreddit shared a screenshot of a DoorDash application asking the applicant to pick a sexual orientation. It seems invasive and unnecessary, but take a deep breath and realize that companies have been asking questions like this for years and years, and it's probably a good thing. Here are the essential details.

DoorDash's application

Rather than relying on a Reddit screenshot, I went straight to DoorDash's website and looked at the job application. For jobs in the United States, they do indeed ask about sexual orientation. DoorDash asks applicants to choose from the following options:

  • Gay
  • Lesbian
  • Heterosexual
  • Bisexual
  • Queer
  • Other
  • Prefer to self-describe
  • I don't wish to answer

It also asks about pronouns:

  • She/her/hers
  • He/him/his
  • He/them/theirs
  • She/them/theirs
  • They/them/theirs
  • Xe
  • Ze
  • Other
  • Prefer to self-describe
  • I don't wish to answer

It asks about things that have been on job applications for years, like veteran status, gender (although it's expanded beyond the traditional male/female), and race.

You are probably used to the latter, as they've been part of applications for years. DoorDash may be ahead of other companies in including the sexual orientation question, but it is, according to employment attorney and HR consultant Kate Bischoff, just preparing for changes in reporting requirements. 

It's impossible to know whether there is discrimination against people based on sexual orientation if you don't know anyone's sexual orientation. And so it feels uncomfortable, but Bischoff adds, "The gasps people had at Reddit are natural. When all the protected classes were first asked, folks had the same response."

Be careful how you use the data.

DoorDash adds a disclaimer before asking these questions. This states:

At DoorDash, we strive to create a culture of belonging where everyone can bring their best selves to work. Our goal is to ensure that diverse identities and perspectives are valued and can thrive. We are continuously evaluating our employee and candidate programs and processes and identifying ways to ensure they are inclusive and equitable. We encourage you to share a bit more about yourself below so we can continue to improve the overall candidate experience and inform future diversity and inclusion initiatives. 

While completion of this survey is required, you will have the option to select "I don't wish to answer" for all questions. All information collected is kept confidential and your data is aggregated with other candidates and used only for statistical purposes. It is never used to identify you individually and has no bearing on your application or candidacy.

As long as this is the case, it is following the law and not discriminating against candidates. Hiring managers and recruiters shouldn't have access to this information, except in the aggregate. That is, they will know how many applicants selected each category, but they won't know which candidate did.

As long as DoorDash uses this information to report, it's OK to ask, even if it is a little unusual.

Should your business start asking these questions?

There's no doubt that many people find these questions invasive and inappropriate. Still, if you're putting a rainbow flag up on your website without finding out if you're treating people fairly regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, you probably should start doing something. 

While the federal government doesn't require businesses to report sexual orientation on its Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports, it's a change that will happen. Federal law protects employees against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, just as it does race and sex. So it makes sense that businesses need to know how their status.

You should consult with your employment attorney before changing your application's self-identification questions, but consider that it might be something you want to start now. Just remember, you must anonymize the answers. Under no circumstances should they play a role in hiring decisions.

Asking on the application is OK, but it's not OK to ask in the interview.

The reason you can ask these questions on the application is that no one--not the hiring manager or the recruiter--sees this information. If you ask it in an interview, then you learn the answer and it can influence your hiring decision--even subconsciously. As employment attorney Jon Hyman explains, 'It's none of an employer's business and should never have a role in hiring."