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Essential job skills list is a lawsuit shield

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in Hiring,Human Resources

Here’s a tip that can help you streamline the hiring process if you reasonably believe you will have a large number of applicants.

Instead of listing preferred qualifications, include a longer list of required ones.

That way, you should be able to whittle down the applicant list to those candidates closest to your ideal candidates.

And don’t forget that this phase should be a blind one with the hiring manager not knowing the age, sex or other protected classification for any of the candidates.

Recent case: Valerie was 51 years old when she applied for a position as a dental hygienist at a community dental clinic.

All applicants filled out the same form, which was submitted blind for review for meeting minimum qualifications.

The clinic received 25 applications and excluded everyone who didn’t identify as bilingual—which was a “preferred” qualification according to the job posting.

That left just three candidates, and excluded Valerie. The hygienist hired was a current employee who had Spanish language skills.

Valerie sued, alleging age discrimination. She got through the initial phase of the lawsuit because she had been screened out from consideration on bilingual skills—something that had been listed as a preferred and not an essential qualification and because someone substantially younger got the job.

Fortunately for the clinic, it was able to win the case by showing that the hiring manager didn’t know her age and because she explained she had hired the other candidate because she could communicate with clients who were increasingly Spanish speakers. (George v. Hennepin County, No. 14-2694, DC MN, 2015)

Final note: Valerie’s case would have been dismissed much earlier if bilingual ability had been a minimum requirement rather than a preferred one.

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