When posting job openings, don’t focus solely on educational requirements. Instead, be sure to clarify that job experience is also required—and provide specific examples.
That way, applicants with extensive education but little or no experience can’t argue they should have been hired over someone with less education and more experience.
Recent case: Arthur and Bernard, both black men, filed EEOC discrimination complaints against their employer, the city of Houston. Then they attended an internal job fair and applied for several open positions. Their résumés showed several college degrees, but little actual experience in the specific job duties. For example, neither had much supervisory experience.
When neither was selected, they sued, alleging retaliation for filing the earlier EEOC complaints.
They argued that they were clearly better qualified than those who were hired because they had college degrees in related fields and were the best-educated of the applicants. The city said it didn’t promote them because they lacked the experience the job posting had specified.
The court dismissed the case. It reasoned that being well qualified in one area doesn’t make up for lacking the minimum qualifications in another area. The announcement merely required a minimum amount of education, plus extensive experience. More education but no experience didn’t trump just enough education and plenty of experience. (Hypolite, et al., v. City of Houston, No. 12-20065, 5th Cir., 2012)
Final note: The men got as far as they did in this litigation because the HR representative reviewing their applications knew about their prior EEOC activity and may even have mentioned it to them. Avoid litigation by making sure hiring screeners don’t know about past protected activities like filing EEOC complaints.