Is your workforce less diverse than the local labor market? You can head off discrimination lawsuits by citing legitimate business needs that justify hiring rules that seem to cause disparities.
The best approach: Have a clear business justification for any screening or job criteria you use, even if you don’t expect they will cause a disparate impact on any protected group.
Recent case: Gregory Meditz, who is white, applied for a job as a housing development analyst for the city of Newark. The city rejected his application because all candidates were required to reside in Newark. Meditz did not.
Meditz sued, alleging that the residency requirement had a disparate impact on white applicants, who make up a small percentage of Newark residents.
But the city argued that the residency requirement was job-related and consistent with business necessity. It offered a number of reasons for requiring employees to reside within city limits, including reducing the high unemployment rate among inner-city minority groups, providing salaries that would be spent in the city by city residents, ensuring that city employees knew the city they served, reducingand tardiness through short commutes and promoting ethnic balance in the community.
Meditz couldn’t show that the city could have met those goals with an alternative job requirement that had less of an impact on white applicants, but still met the city’s legitimate goals. The court dismissed his lawsuit. (Meditz v. City of Newark, No. 08-2912, DC NJ, 2010)