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Tell managers: No talk of hiring preferences

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Hiring,Human Resources

As hard as it is to believe, some managers still think they can use sex or race as the reason to hire one qualified applicant instead of other qualified candidates. Of course, that’s wrong, and it could trigger a discrimination lawsuit if word gets out.

That’s why you should remind everyone involved in the hiring process that his or her decision must be blind to personal characteristics. Also, warn them that no one should voice opinions about the preferred race or sex (or other protected characteristic) of the successful applicant.

Recent case: Stephen Schafer, who is white, was up for promotion at a state health agency. He was one of 40 applicants, of whom 13 were deemed qualified enough to be finalists for the position.

The agency convened a selection committee made up of three supervisors. They were supposed to go through the qualified candidate files, interview each one and select the applicant they believed was best qualified. Another agency employee would then make the final decision based on their recommendation.

When Schafer was bypassed in favor of a black woman, he sued.

He alleged that during the selection process he had heard several comments that he took as direct evidence he was being discriminated against because of his sex and race. He claimed one of the selection committee members said the ultimate decision-maker allegedly told the committee that she wanted a black female to get the promotion, and that before the interviews were even completed, the selection was “a done deal.”

The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court decision to dismiss the case. The appeals court said Schafer had enough evidence to send the case on to trial. (Schafer v. State of Maryland, No. 08-1647, 4th Cir., 2009)

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