Sometimes even managers’ best intentions can lead to big court battles. Example: when employers unwittingly discriminate in an effort to hire a diverse workforce.
A white schoolteacher applied several times to be an assistant principal. She was turned down each time in favor of African-American applicants.
She argued that the school district had an overall practice of favoring minority employees and applicants over whites when filling higher-up positions. For example, she claimed the district:
- used quotas and goals for the hiring of minority employees (such as requiring one African-American administrator in every school)
- announced in job postings that it “will make special efforts to employ and advance women, blacks, and handicapped persons,” and
- mandate that all hiring decisions be made by a multiracial committee and told the members to favor African-American applicants.
The district didn’t deny those practices — but it claimed it was simply following a court-ordered affirmative action plan handed down in a prior lawsuit.
But the judge didn’t buy the defense. Like all legal affirmative action plans, the order the district was under didn’t require the schools to favor a particular racial group — just to “develop a racially diverse pool of applicants.” After that, giving preference to applicants of color was illegal discrimination.
According to the EEOC, the right way to promote diversity is attracting qualified minority applicants — without discriminating against anyone else. Managers’ hearts may be in the right place, but hiring employees based on anything other than skills and experience is always a recipe for trouble.
Cite: Humphries v. Pulaski County Special School District