If someone sues you because she didn’t get hired or promoted, the hiring manager better be able to explain the selection criteria. Many can’t. That’s why it’s crucial for HR to oversee hiring and promotion processes and make absolutely certain you can document how the decision was made.
It’s especially important to be able to show familiarity with each applicant’s credentials. Otherwise, it looks as if the decision was based on something other than merit.
Recent case: Kay Knoblauch applied for a promotion with the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services. She was one of five applicants who responded to the internal job posting and was invited to take the exam. Shortly after, a male applicant was chosen for the promotion.
Knoblauch sued, alleging sex discrimination. When the manager who made the promotion decision gave his deposition, he was unable to tell the court why he had bypassed Knoblauch. In fact, he apparently couldn’t remember much about her or her qualifications. He simply said he felt the applicant he picked was better qualified.
The judge noted that if the manager had no idea what Knoblauch’s qualifications were, he was hardly in a position to say his chosen candidate was better qualified. Now a jury will decide whether this was a case of sex discrimination. (Knoblauch v. New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, No. 06-1056, DC NJ, 2008)
Final note: Consider using a promotions checklist that allows easy comparison of each candidate. At the very least, the hiring manager will have something to refresh his memory in case of a lawsuit.
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- Carrot or stick? Motivating managers to finish reviews
- Track managers' deviation from rules to ensure there's no hidden discrimination
- What can the HIRE Act do for our company?