Hiring managers have a lot to think about when deciding if candidates are the right fit, such as how they’ll get along with customers, clients or co-workers. But taking those considerations too far can lead to trouble.
In one recent court case, a company was sued for making a promotion decision based on its customer base’s racial preferences:
Eric Simple, an African-American Walgreen’s employee, sought a promotion from assistant manager to store manager. He had one store in mind, but wasn’t chosen for that position.
The store was located in an affluent, mostly white area. The woman promoted to manage that store was a white woman who’d been an assistant manager for half as long as Simple.
Instead of that job, Simple was offered two different store manager positions, both in low income, mostly minority neighborhoods. Both stores were less profitable than the “white” store — which would’ve meant lower pay, because managers’ bonuses are based on their stores’ profits.
Simple turned down the offers and sued, claiming Walgreen’s didn’t give him his desired promotion because of his race.
As if the big gap in experience between the two candidates didn’t look bad enough, the hiring manager clarified her reasons for choosing the white woman: “In this area, some of the towns have some very racist tendencies,” she said, and Simple “may not have been very happy” working at his preferred store.
And the store, she added, was “not ready to have a black manager.”
That wasn’t a good enough excuse for the court. Companies can’t make hiring or promotion decisions based on a candidate’s race — and that includes using customers’ supposed biases as a factor. The judge let the case move forward.
Managers need to be trained to keep race out of hiring decisions, even when they think they have a good reason for considering it. Trying to protect a candidate from racial tension caused by customers, clients or other employees will only result in a big legal headache like this one.
Cite: Simple v. Walgreen Co.
Bid to please customers leads to hiring bias suit
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