Does your organization use phrases such as “fits our culture” or “understands our vision” as part of the hiring decision? If so, you may be setting yourself up for a discrimination lawsuit.
Why? Because courts and juries sometimes view such subjective language as evidence that something else lies behind those phrases—maybe a desire to hide discrimination behind nebulous criteria instead of using objective measures to gauge experience or education.
Recent case: Gary Vaughn, who is white, was passed over for a promotion at the U.S. Agriculture Department even though he was a good employee with extensive experience. Another candidate, who is black and had less experience, was promoted instead.
To justify the decision, the agency said the chosen candidate was a better fit for the agency’s culture and better understood its vision. Vaughn sued, alleging reverse race discrimination.
The federal court hearing the case ordered a trial. The judge concluded that subjective phrases, such as the ones used in this case, could be codes to cover up the desire to hire or promote a black employee at the expense of a white employee. (Vaughn v. Johanns, et al., No. 06-CV-4038, SD IL, 2007)
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