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Look for hiring trends that could signal bias—you might just avoid a huge jury award

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Hiring,Human Resources

Most applicants who aren’t hired just go away. But sometimes they don’t—and then it’s time to watch out!

A rejected applicant can play the discrimination card, possibly costing you an expensive jury award.

That’s one good reason to check your hiring practices for hidden bias against various protected classes. See whether those hired tend to fall into a particular group—men, for example. Then double-check to make sure you aren’t rejecting women with appropriate training and experience.

Recent case: Colleen Donlin worked as a temporary employee for Philips Lighting. Like many temps, she coveted a permanent job with benefits. She applied for every opening she could. But male temps seemed to get all the permanent jobs.

Donlin sued, alleging sex discrimination.

A jury sided with Donlin and awarded her almost $500,000 in back pay and future lost wages—even though she had received a comparable job relatively quickly.

The company appealed, and the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the jury on liability, but sent the case back for a new trial on damages. That was mainly because Donlin relied on someone who wasn’t an expert to calculate her lost wages. She’ll have to hire an expert for Round 2. (Donlin v. Philips Lighting, No. 07-4060, 3rd Cir., 2009)

Final note:
Donlin’s expert may come up with an even higher lost-wages figure. It’s far better to avoid litigation in the first place.

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