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Use this simple rule when interviewing: If it could be a slur, don’t say it

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Hiring,Human Resources

Remind all hiring managers and supervisors that absolutely no racial slurs are allowed during an interview—not even in passing or in jest. Applicants who aren’t hired will get a jury trial if they can show that someone with hiring authority uttered a racial slur.

The reason: The slur is direct evidence of discrimination.

Recent case:
James Li, who is of Asian descent, applied for a job as a public defender. During his interview, the person responsible for hiring asked him what he had done between graduating from college and entering law school, since there was a gap on his résumé.

Li explained that he had been offered a job, but his security clearance was held up because the agency he was going to work for was in the throes of a crisis involving another employee who was accused of being a Chinese spy.

The hiring manager then said, “We don’t hire gooks, either.” Apparently this was a joke, but silence followed the statement. Li was not hired.

Li sued, alleging racial discrimination based on the slur. The court agreed he was entitled to a jury trial, because the statement, if true, was direct evidence of racial discrimination. (Li v. Sherltzer, et al., No. 1:07-CV-1039, ED CA, 2008)

Final note: Wondering what constitutes a slur? When in doubt, don’t let those words out. It’s as simple as that. Call people by name instead of referring to them as members of a group.

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