THE MAGAZINE

How to Avoid Hiring Hazards

By W. Barry Nixon

When Robert F. Byrnie was not hired by the town of Cromwell, Connecticut, he filed a lawsuit against the town claiming that he was discriminated against because of his age. It turned out that the prospective employer had failed to keep the application or any other forms relating to the applicant's case. After the case was filed, the municipality also destroyed the written ballots completed by the screening committee concerning the candidate.

The court ruled that the missing application alone would not have created sufficient evidence to infer discrimination, but that the missing documents, coupled with the destruction of the ballots, was sufficient to allow the applicant to pursue a discrimination claim. As a result of the ruling, Byrnie has the right to take his claims to a jury. Even if the employer prevails, it will have had to expend time and resources on the case.

As this case (Byrnie v. Town of Cromwell, 2001) illustrates, poor hiring practices can be costly. Companies can reduce their exposure by adopting and implementing the right hiring policies and procedures.

Among the elements to consider are how to treat the résumé, what to ask in job interviews, what information to seek on the applications, and what to consider in the job-offer stage. Addressing each of these elements wisely and legally are the keys to avoiding lawsuits.

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