Sometimes, a female applicant believes that she has the skills and ability to do a very strenuous job even if she hasn’t tried before. Especially if the job is in a largely male-dominated field, you may be tempted to hire her, even if only to avoid a potential sex discrimination claim.
Go ahead and give her a chance, knowing that if it doesn’t work out, you can terminate her. Just make sure you document everything.
Recent case: Amy, a 37-year-old, 5-foot-1-inch woman who weighs 125 pounds, applied for a job as a pipe fitter. She claimed she had no problems lifting 50 pounds or doing any of the other strenuous work associated with the position.
Amy was hired. She almost immediately had trouble and went out on workers’ compensation several times. When her supervisors concluded she simply couldn’t physically do the job, she was terminated.
She sued, alleging sex discrimination and retaliation for filing workers’ comp claims.
The court tossed out her case. It reasoned that the company had proved she could not do the job. The employer tracked her mistakes and requests for help, and spoke with co-workers, including another female pipe fitter. The court said that was enough to justify terminating her. (MacDonald-Bass v. J.E. Johnson Contracting, No. 10-2318, 6th Cir., 2012)
Another option: Come up with a job-related prehire test that is consistent with business necessity. Be sure to consider reasonable accommodations for any disabled applicants.