Sometimes, applicants are pretty closely matched in experience, education and other skills. That makes it hard to pick the best qualified person for the job.
And that can trigger worries about a lawsuit. What if you get the decision wrong, choosing someone from one protected category over another slightly better-qualified minority applicant?
Fortunately, that misstep won’t open the door for hordes of minority applicants to sue. Only the slightly better-qualified applicant will have a claim.
Recent case: Stephanie, who is black, had worked for New York City in various computer positions for over 20 years—and had frequently complained to supervisors about alleged discrimination. However, she never filed an official EEOC complaint until she was passed over for a promotion into ajob.
In her subsequent lawsuit, Stephanie alleged that she and another black candidate for the position were better qualified than an Asian woman who got the job.
As proof that the city discriminated against black employees when deciding whom to promote, Stephanie outlined her qualifications and those of the other black candidate.
The court reviewed their qualifications and concluded that Stephanie was far less qualified than the Asian woman, who had more specific experience and met more of the preferred qualifications listed in the job announcement. But the call was far closer when the court looked at the other black candidate.
However, the court dismissed Stephanie’s claim. It noted that while the other black candidate might have had a case, this wasn’t her lawsuit. Logic would have it that, if the other black candidate was just as qualified as the Asian woman, then Stephanie was less qualified than either of them. She therefore couldn’t claim the job should have been hers. (Thomas v. City of New York, No. 11-CIV-5978, ED NY, 2013)
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