The success of your organization depends on hiring the right people. You spend a lot of time and effort determining the company’s needs and designing job descriptions that meet those needs. Don’t let a potential discrimination lawsuit ruin all that hard work.
Instead, make the hiring process as transparent as possible. That means stating up front what the minimum training, experience and educational requirements are. Provide applicants with timelines and keep everyone informed about deadlines and the decision-making process.
In addition, have a diverse selection team. That way, if an applicant later challenges the decision, it will be easier to defend because the bias or idiosyncrasies of one person won’t taint the entire process.
Recent case: When Gulf Coast Community Services Association needed a new executive director, it created a hiring team, updated the job description to clearly state the minimum job requirements and used a fairly transparent process. When long-time employee Vesta Lusk, who was serving as interim executive director, wasn’t selected for an interview, she suspected age discrimination.
When she learned that the candidate selected was a woman not yet 40, she sued. During discovery, she also found out one of the committee members threw her résumé in the trash, allegedly adding that Lusk was “too old for the position.”
But Lusk didn’t have a master’s degree; all the candidates who were interviewed did. The organization showed the court its interview notes and explained the selection process in detail. It became clear the committee had chosen whom to interview based on education. Even if one member made age-related remarks, that didn’t taint the entire committee’s decision. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals found no age discrimination and dismissed the case. (Lusk v. Gulf Coast Community Services Association, No. 05-20870, 5th Cir., 2007)
- How to Fire an Employee the Legal Way: 6 Termination Guidelines
- Survive a PHRC probe only with precise documentation
- Don't push retiring employee out early; you'll risk age lawsuit
- Focus on concrete qualifications in hiring, not esoteric 'chemistry'
- Act fast to fix computer glitch that threatens to compromise disability accommodation