An applicant for a job posting in education lists his most recent relevant experience as occurring in 1973. You don’t bring him in for an interview.
Is it gender discrimination?
And if you don’t hire the most qualified person, is that evidence of gender discrimination?
No to all three, says one recent federal court decision.
The decision by the court was quietly released late last month and might otherwise go unnoticed, but it underscores an important point for employers.
In the matter, the Plaintiff argued that the employer discriminated against him because of his gender by denying him the opportunity for a job interview. The employer chose four female and two male candidates for interviews.
The Plaintiff argued that he was more qualified than the female candidates who were interviewed and ultimately hired by the employer.
The court said, however, that the mere fact that the employer hired people of a different gender does not suggest that it failed to hire the Plaintiff “on account of his gender”.
Indeed, the employer had various reasons as to why the Plaintiff was not interviewed:
- he hadn’t filled out the entire job application and didn’t answer whether he had any criminal offenses in the last ten years.
- his resume was “perceived to be outdated, as the most recent job listing in education was from 1973.”
So, you might not think much of the case.
But the court’s decision is notable because it contains language that will be helpful in other cases for employers. Says the court: “[T]here is no legal requirement that the most qualified candidate be hired.”
In doing so, the quote revisits a quote from an 1980 decision.
Title VII does not require that the candidate whom a court considers most qualified for a particular position be awarded that position; it requires only that the decision among candidates not be discriminatory. When a decision to hire, promote, or grant tenure to one person rather than another is reasonably attributable to an honest even though partially subjective evaluation of their qualifications, no inference of discrimination can be drawn. Indeed, to infer discrimination from a comparison among candidates is to risk a serious infringement of first amendment values. A university’s prerogative to determine for itself on academic grounds who may teach is an important part of our long tradition of academic freedom.
All that being said, employers should have SOME rational basis for their decisions. Even if the candidate is “more qualified”, the employer may determine that there are other reasons why the employee should not be hired; maybe the employee’s qualifications cannot overcome a bad job interview, etc.
Keeping bias out of your decision-making process is central to employers. But it’s nice to know that employers don’t have to be perfect in its determinations of qualifications either.