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Court: We won’t micromanage hiring decisions

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in Hiring,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Performance Reviews

Deciding who should be hired or promoted is tough under the best of circumstances. But at least there is now one thing you don’t have to worry about.

The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that an employee who was passed over for a promotion can’t later use the poor performance of the person who got the job to prove the decision was discriminatory.

The case shows that courts are willing to let employers make mistakes; they won’t micromanage hiring and promotion decisions.

Recent case: Anne Byrne claimed she was passed over for a promotion because she is a woman and that her employer went outside the company to find a man instead. She said she was better qualified than the man who was hired because she had a bachelor’s degree and he did not.

But her employer pointed out that the position didn’t require a degree if the applicant had extensive experience. Instead, the company wanted the specific experience the male candidate had, and which Byrne did not have despite her college degree.

Byrne then tried to argue that the man turned out to be a dud: He performed his job in a lackluster fashion.

The court said that the chosen candidate’s later performance wasn’t really relevant to the hiring decision. It said employers are free to make hiring mistakes as long as their underlying motivation isn’t some sort of discrimination. The fact that Byrne might have turned out to be a better employee wasn’t relevant because the company had no way of knowing its preferred candidate would not shine as an employee. (Byrne v. Telesector Resources Group, No. 08-0101, 2nd Cir., 2009)

Final note: Byrne’s case was also weakened by the fact that a male co-worker had also been rejected for the promotion.

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