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Make sure hiring criteria include objective elements

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Hiring,Human Resources

Hiring the right people is difficult. Managers want to make sure the candidates they select fit in with the rest of the workforce. On the other hand, wanting too good a fit may be code for “discrimination” for those who don’t make the cut.

There’s no need, though, to cut out all the subjective factors that go into a hiring decision. Instead, make sure you also include objective measures that can be easily compared, such as education, experience and specific skills. That way, you are more likely to win a discrimination challenge.

Recent case: Nancy Wingate worked as a part-time teacher for many years. She held a master’s degree and was 60 years old. Wingate applied for four open, full-time teaching positions. But her school district rejected her each time in favor of applicants who were considerably younger.

She sued, alleging age discrimination.

In court, the school district said it relied on several factors to justify its decisions. First, it considered whether applicants could successfully handle a large classroom and whether the candidates were “above-average” teachers. It said it considered Wingate just average. However, the district also weighed objective factors such as coaching experience and special certifications—neither of which Wingate had.

The court said Wingate hadn’t cast doubt on the district’s legitimate reasons and concluded that it “did not rely exclusively on subjective criteria; rather, they also relied on objective criteria and legitimate educational considerations.” It tossed out Wingate’s case. (Wingate v. Gage County School District, et al., No. 07-3492, 8th Cir., 2008)

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