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Lack of qualifications will sink bias lawsuit

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

If it turns out that an employee who is suing you for bias was, in hindsight, unqualified for the job, count your blessings! That can help you defend against claims that you fired him for discriminatory reasons.

Former employees who claim discrimination must prove that they were qualified for their jobs. Usually, the fact that the person was hired is enough to clear that hurdle. But if you discover that an employee lied about his qualifications, you may be able to get the case dismissed quickly if the evidence shows he was unqualified.

Recent case: Eugene, who is black, was hired as a welding instructor, a job requiring a minimum of three years of welding experience. Eugene claimed he had worked as a welder for the minimum required time.

Almost immediately, students com­­plained about his teaching. The employer sent an independent observer to the classroom, who concluded Eugene was demonstrating improper welding techniques.

Soon after, Eugene was dismissed. He sued, alleging race discrimination.

The employer then sought out information about Eugene’s qualifications and discovered that he had not been entirely honest about his welding qualifications and experience. Among the evidence: Eugene had not reported earning any income during years he claimed to have been employed as a welder at another company.

That was enough for the court to accept the employer’s argument that hiring him had been a mistake and that he simply wasn’t qualified for the job. Eugene’s lawsuit was dismissed. (Dykes v. Marco Group, et al., No. 15-1088, ED PA, 2016)

Final note: This employer did everything right. It quickly caught on that the instructor it had hired wasn’t working up to its expectations. It used an independent investigator to verify its suspicions.

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