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Beware the discrimination perils of hiring and firing by committee

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in Hiring,Human Resources

Using a group to make hiring or firing decisions can increase the probability that some illegal, discriminatory factor will influence the process. And, if even one or two members of the committee testify that other members considered an impermissible factor, that lawsuit won’t get dismissed. You’re going to go to trial.

Recent case: Ardis and two other black employees lost their jobs when the city of Marshall eliminated their positions for budgetary reasons. The budget was cut after an outside consultant recommended ways for the city to save money. The city council—with four white members and three black members—approved the cuts 4 to 3 along racial lines.

Ardis sued, alleging that  he and other black employees had been discriminated against due to their race. After taking depositions, the court was faced with the four white council members claiming race wasn’t considered, while the three black members claimed it may have played a role.

The city wanted the case dismissed, but the court refused. It concluded that if some of the people who were part of the budget-cutting process believed race had been a factor in their decisions, that was enough direct evidence of discrimination to send the case to trial. (Wright, et al., v. City of Marshall, No. 2:15-CV-279, ED TX, 2016)

Final note: It’s not uncommon for some committee members to make statements that could be construed as discriminatory. If that happens, take immediate action. Consider removing the member from the committee.

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