Human Resources News & Insights

Top ways hiring managers get firms sued

HR knows how to legally recruit and interview candidates — but that doesn’t mean hiring managers aren’t going to make costly mistakes from time to time.

Here are the five key areas managers need to look out for to keep your company out of court:

Interview questions

Questions about age, race, sex, family responsibilities, national origin and disabilities are off limits. Even if a manager doesn’t ask about those things directly, “small talk” questions like “Oh, what church do you go to?” or “Do you think you’ll ever have kids?” can give the impression of bias.

Interview notes

Information about a candidate’s protected status might come up when he or she answers other questions. But mangers must be absolutely sure not to write any notes related to those categories.

No matter what the reason for writing something down, to a judge or jury it usually means one thing — that the manager considered that information when making the hiring decision.

Questions from unsuccessful candidates

Managers have to be very careful about the comments they make if they have any contact with unsuccessful candidates — for example, if people ask them why they didn’t get hired.

In recent court cases, managers have said things along the lines of “We wanted someone who’d help our diversity,” or “You didn’t have the right look” — and ended up costing their companies big.

Remind managers to avoid answering those questions or stick with an all-purpose statement: “We filled the position with a more qualified candidate.”

Promises about the job

A few weeks ago, we wrote about a case in which a manager incorrectly told a candidate she’d get a certain benefits package — and she sued after she was hired and given less coverage.

The lesson for managers: Don’t exaggerate anything about the job. Even false statements of non-monetary things — for example, possibilities of promotion — could potentially lead to the company getting sued for making false promises.

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