Equal Employment Opportunity: Investigating Discriminatory Hiring Practices

Article written by Heather Z. Cooper
Posted on Jun 30, 2011

Facey Goss & McPhee recently responded on behalf of a client (the “Company”) to an inquiry by the State of Vermont Office of the Attorney General, Civil Rights Division, regarding allegations of discriminatory hiring practices. The Civil Rights Division shares jurisdiction with the Employment Opportunity Commission in investigating and enforcing Vermont and Federal laws and regulations regarding employment discrimination. The recent inquiry involved allegations that the Company discriminated against an applicant during the hiring process
based upon her gender. In order for the Attorney General to pursue any claims, the applicant had to prove that she was qualified for the job for which she applied and that the sole basis she was not hired was due to her gender.

After its initial request for information and investigation into the allegations, the Attorney General declined to pursue any claims. Important considerations that were enunciated by the Attorney General included the following:

  • The Company was able to articulate a legitimate, non-discriminatory explanation for not hiring the applicant. The applicant’s job application did not specify any training or special knowledge demonstrating the applicant was qualified for the job for which she applied.
  • The Company was able to demonstrate a legitimate business decision for hiring a male, who had previously worked for the Company, for the job. Based upon his previous experience and training, the Company would be able to put the Company’s new schedule into place with little to no transition or down time.

Important lessons abound from this recent investigation for all employers. The Company had retained all ocumentation about job applicants in a central location that was accessible upon demand which greatly facilitated the response to the initial inquiry and the request for supporting documentation. The Company was able to nunciate
the bases for its decision not to hire the applicant and the decision making process that occurred during the course of its hiring decision. Lastly, the Company had an anti-discrimination policy in place, including postings on site. Maintaining accurate records, following your company’s established decision making protocol, and adhering to established procedures and protocols should assist in the response to any allegations of discrimination, whether based on gender, race, or sexual orientation.

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