When hiring for some jobs, managers need to take into account how the candidates will interact with customers. But managers can’t let customer preferences sway them into making biased decisions.
In one recent case, a temp agency was sued after repeatedly failing to hire women for certain jobs. The firm served clients in the construction, freight handling, catering and janitorial industries.
Allegedly, available jobs were classified as “women’s jobs” or “men’s jobs.”
Why? Because customers asked the agency to do so. Apparently, some clients frequently asked the firm to only refer men for some positions. One female temp complained, but no change was made. She sued the temp agency, and other women joined the suit.
The firm tried to have the case thrown out, arguing that it was fulfilling its clients’ requests. But the judge didn’t buy that excuse. Since the women were technically employed by the staffing agency, the agency was liable for the bias.
The firm ended up settling for $250,000 (Cite: EEOC v. Preferred Labor LLC).
Customers ‘weren’t ready’
In another case, Walgreens was sued when a white assistant manager was promoted to store manager instead of an African-American with twice as much experience.
The company”s reason for the decision: The store was in a white area, and the hiring manager said the customers “were not ready to have a black manager.”
Again, the judge agreed that customers’ bias shouldn’t have been used to make the hiring decision. Walgreens lost the case (Cite: Simple v. Walgreen Co.).
Managers must be trained to avoid hiring based on race, gender and other protected classes — even when it’s in response to a stated or implied customer preference. That’s no less illegal than other kinds of biased decisions.