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Be ready to show you hired the best candidate

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Hiring,Human Resources

Unsuccessful applicants often believe they didn’t get hired because of some form of discrimination—especially if they know they met the minimum job requirements. They just might sue.

Then you had better be ready to show that the person you hired was clearly better qualified. If you can do that, chances are a discrimination lawsuit will be tossed out fast.

Recent case: Laura, who is over age 40, met the minimum requirements for teaching school. She worked intermittently as a substitute teacher at several schools. When two permanent positions opened up, she applied for both jobs. However, the school district hired other applicants instead.

Laura sued, alleging that both successful applicants were younger than her. Therefore, she argued, she must have been the victim of age discrimination.

But the school district moved to dismiss the lawsuit. It cited what it believed were clearly superior qualifications for the younger applicants. For example, both had advanced degrees; Laura did not. The court found that Laura had not shown that she was as qualified as the other applicants. Her lawsuit was dismissed. (Bellinger v. Coos Bay School District, 9th Cir., 2017)

Advice: It may help to note both minimum qualifications and preferred qualifications in your job announcements. Then inform candidates with only minimum qualifications that you intend to interview those with preferred qualifications first.

In addition, before conducting any interviews, tell rejected candidates that they haven’t been selected to come in for interviews. Include a generic statement explaining that you chose to interview those applicants who met your preferred qualifications. By being up-front about the process, you may discourage a lawsuit.

Even if the applicant considers filing a lawsuit, such a notice will discourage most attorneys from taking the case because it will be obvious that you have a strong defense.

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