Sometimes, the best lessons are learned from the worst examples.
That’s often the case with HR. When employers make big mistakes and have to pay for them in court, other employers with good practices—that maybe need just a little tweaking—can discover what not to do.
Here’s a good example:
Recent case: Three women claimed their gender caused them to be stuck in dead-end jobs at a New York City grocery store. They sued, alleging sex discrimination, and asked the court to approve the case as a class-action suit open to all other similarly situated female employees.
Each of the three women claimed she was hired and steered into a part-time cashier position. Meanwhile, male employees were placed in more desirable part-time clerk positions.
The women said they remained stuck as cashiers while they watched their male counterparts move up the ladder into higher-paying management positions.
In court, store management had to explain its hiring and promotion practices—such as they were.
The company had a corporate manager who essentially served as the HR department. Although he had an undergraduate HR degree, he had no further training, and no one at the company gave him instructions on discrimination laws.
Plus, he said the company had no job descriptions, no formal hiring policies and no set promotions processes. The store offered no method for applicants or employees to find out about job openings or how to apply.
How did he choose applicants to hire and promote? He said he based his decisions only on how the applicants handled themselves during the interviews and whether they were friendly and honest.
In court, a statistician who analyzed the store’s hiring and promotion practices testified that there was a 100% probability that sex discrimination was occurring. Essentially, he said, the store segregated employees by sex and promoted only men through a word-of-mouth process.
All this damning testimony was enough to persuade the court to let the case go to trial as a class-action lawsuit. (Duling, et al., v. Gristede’s Operating Corporation, No. 06-CIV-10197, SD NY, 2010)
Online resources: For additional advice on the legal aspects of hiring and promotion, see these white papers on the HR Specialist web site:
- How to Write Effective and Legal Job Descriptions
- Choosing Employees for Promotion: A 6-Step Legal Process
- 25 Off-Limits Interview Questions
- How to Make Legally Smart Job Offers
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