Sometimes employers have the delightful problem of having several qualified candidates for a position or promotion. But that good problem can turn into a legal nightmare if an employer winds up fighting discrimination claims from a passed-over applicant.
One approach that helps guard against discrimination charges is to have a diverse panel help make the hiring decision. If your panel reflects the applicant pool’s composition, that’s even better.
Recent case: Robert Moore, who is black, applied for a promotion to a section chief position. A white woman temporarily held the job, based on an assignment a white male supervisor had made.
Four other section chiefs—a white female, a black female, a white male and an Asian-American male—were assigned to a panel that interviewed and ranked the applicants.
The team selected three of the candidates as the top prospects, including the white woman who temporarily held the job. She got the promotion, and Moore sued.
The court examined the entire process and concluded that Moore hadn’t shown either direct evidence of discrimination (considering the panel’s composition), nor had he shown that he was better qualified than the white woman who got the job. The court ruled in the employer’s favor. (Moore v. Mukasey, No. 07-1513, 4th Cir., 2008)
Final note: The court also said there was nothing wrong with considering the experience that the temporary section chief got during her assignment as a reason for selecting her over others.
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