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Hiring or promoting? OK to discount experience if it’s trumped by other factors

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Hiring,Human Resources

When an employee or applicant claims she was passed over for a job because of discrimination, she generally has to show that she was clearly the best-qualified candidate for the position.

Some will argue that cumulative years of experience trump other factors. That’s not always true.

Recent case: Ramona, who is black, had worked for a school district for 20 years when she wasn’t selected to fill a summer school position. Instead, the district chose someone outside her protected class who had less experience. However, the winning candidate had spent years working at the school where the job was located.

Ramona sued, alleging she was clearly the best-qualified candidate for the job because of her greater experience.

The court agreed that experience alone wasn’t the decisive factor. Someone with fewer years of experience, but whose experience is more specific and pertinent to a particular job may well be the best candidate. It dismissed Ramona’s case. (Spencer v. Alief Independent School District, No. 4:11-CV-02105, SD TX, 2012)

Final note: Make sure your job announcements explain the qualifications you are looking for, including experience, training and specific knowledge required. Then supervise the hiring process so everyone involved knows what factors to consider and how to weigh them.

Include as many objective factors as possible—and as few subjective ones as possible. Rank candidates using the factors specified. Retain job selection notes in case you have to justify the decision later.

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