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Warn bosses: Talk of protected characteristics can flag bias

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in Hiring,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training

Here’s a warning you should make sure supervisors hear loud and clear: No one in management should ever mention a protected characteristic (such as age, race or gender) while discussing a promotion or hiring decision.

Taken the wrong way, such statements can be viewed by a court as direct evidence of discrimination.

Recent case: Buncombe County government employee Melanie Pitrolo sued the county after she was turned down for a promotion. She wanted to become her agency’s interim director. Pitrolo claimed that during a meeting to discuss the position, her supervisor told her some officials had expressed opposition to her bid to become director on account of her age and gender.

The court said the statement was direct evidence of discrimination—and a jury agreed. (Pitrolo v. County of Buncombe, et al., No. 09-2051, 4th Cir., 2011)

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