Employers that lean heavily on interviews to decide which of two equally qualified candidates to promote should make sure they can later explain the selection process. That means asking participants in panel interviews to take and collect notes on what the interviews covered and how well the candidates did. If a rejected candidate later sues, the notes will help paint an accurate picture of the discussions.
That means you need to train interviewers in proper interview techniques. Ideally, interviewer notes will show that the selection process was impartial and professional. But if notes show that interviewers discussed race, religion or other protected topics, prepare for a difficult lawsuit that you could easily lose.
Recent case: Malcolm Byrd worked for Philadelphia’s Department of Public Health. Byrd also collected college degrees, having earned a B.A. in human services and master’s degrees in education, government administration and theological studies. At the time he sought a promotion, he was working toward a doctorate.
The city had to choose between Byrd and another candidate, a white woman. Byrd believed he was the best qualified, based on the job description and his experience. Agency managers conducted a round of interviews and ultimately promoted the woman. Byrd sued for racial discrimination.
But the city had tracked its promotion panel discussions. Notes revealed a robust discussion of each applicant’s qualifications and the rationale for picking the best candidate. Because there was no hint that race played a role, the court threw out Byrd’s case. (Byrd v. City Of Philadelphia, No. 05-2877, ED PA, 2008)
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