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Beware liability if no-hire decision was based on politics

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in Employment Law,Hiring,Human Resources

Here’s a reminder for government hiring managers: While ordinarily, such supervisors have qualified immunity, that’s not the case if the decision not to hire is based on an applicant’s political beliefs.

Recent case: Teresa Wagner applied for a full-time teaching job at a public law school. She was warned by someone on the hiring committee to disguise her conservative ideology. Wagner, a lawyer, had worked for conservative groups in Washington, was a registered Republican and a staunch abortion opponent.

After a full-day interview, she was highly recommended for the job. But the law school dean instead hired someone with less experience.

Wagner sued the dean, who lost. The court said no qualified immunity was available because the law clearly stated political affiliation or beliefs cannot be part of the hiring decision for public employers. (Wagner v. Jones, No. 10-2588, 8th Cir., 2011)

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