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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