Informal employment inquiries can sometimes lead to failure-to-hire lawsuits. The best way to avoid such litigation is to set up a clear application process and tell all potential applicants that this is the only way they can apply.
Recent case: Jody was a psychologist who provided counseling services to Air National Guard personnel. A contract service employed her under an agreement with the U.S. Air Force.
The Air Force decided to bring counseling in-house and began hiring counselors directly. A job opening for social workers was posted on the USAJOBS.gov website, the official job posting system for federal jobs. The job announcement required applicants to hold a Master of Social Work degree and a corresponding license.
Instead of applying through the website, Jody began emailing and calling her supervisors, expressing interest in the job. The Air Force hired someone who had applied through the website.
Jody sued, alleging age discrimination. The court tossed out her case because she bypassed the required application process. That meant she had never actually applied for the job, and therefore could not have been discriminated against. (Schultz v. USAF, et al., 3rd Cir., 2017)
Note: The court also noted that Jody did not meet the minimum job requirements.