You conduct interviews to help determine who is the best candidate for a position. But every interview carries with it the possibility of a lawsuit. After all, it’s at interview time that protected characteristics like race, age, sex or disability may become apparent.
That’s one reason to focus on objective rather than subjective factors when rating and ranking candidates.
Provide too many comments on things like attitude and enthusiasm among candidates and you increase the risk that a judge will see those as code for not wanting to hire based on a candidate’s protected characteristic that only became apparent during the interview.
Recent case: Keith is black. He had a relationship with a white co-worker. When she sued, she won $580,000 for allegedly being terminated based on that relationship.
Shortly after, Keith was terminated from his job, allegedly because it became a civil service position. He applied for other positions and was eventually interviewed but never hired. Interview notes complained that he wasn’t dressed well enough and seemed uninterested in the job. Yet a white candidate hired had similar comments in his file and was still hired.
Keith sued, alleging retaliation for his association with the white co-worker and race discrimination.
The court said he had a case. It pointed out that the subjective comments that allegedly made Keith a poor candidate didn’t hold back the white applicant. (Richardson v. New York State, No. 6-11-CV-1007, SD NY, 2014)
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