It doesn’t take much to start a federal lawsuit. However, you can help lawsuit-proof your hiring process by relying on strength in numbers. Have two company representatives sit in on interviews. Then have both reps deliver the news when you have to tell an applicant she wasn’t selected.
That’s insurance against a drawn-out he said/she said lawsuit.
Recent case: Nafiseh Safi worked for Royal Jordanian Airlines and retired when she reached age 55. Later, she applied for open positions with the airline in Chicago, but she wasn’t hired.
Safi sued, claiming her interviewer told her directly that she was too old for the job. Safi alleged that the airline then hired women in their 20s.
The interviewer denied making any such statement and said he rejected Safi because she was argumentative and abrasive, qualities he saw as liabilities in customer service positions like the one Safi sought.
Nonetheless, the court said the case could go forward since it was essentially one person’s word against another’s. (Safi v. Royal Jordanian Airlines, No. 08-C-7365, ND IL, 2010)
Final note: Not long ago, the U.S. Supreme Court made it harder for applicants and employees to win age discrimination lawsuits. Rather than show that age was a factor, they must show it was the sole reason for the employer’s decision. From a practical standpoint, that means plaintiffs must have direct proof of age discrimination—like the alleged statement in this case.
When all the interactions in the hiring process are one-on-one, applicants may feel like they can get away with stretching the truth, both when they file a lawsuit and during litigation. But if you have two representatives present, that makes it much harder for applicants to lie and have a court believe it.
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