U.S. Companies Gear Up for Flurry of Discrimination Lawsuits from
Job Applicants

By Eugene K. Pettis and Debra Klauber, Haliczer Pettis & Schwamm

Didn’t get the job? Sue the company for discrimination.

That’s the latest strategy that many disgruntled jobseekers are deploying in today’s competitive job market, putting undue stress on companies to protect themselves and justify their reasons for not hiring them.

More than 40% of the unemployed – roughly 6.2 million Americans – have been jobless for at least six months, the highest since the Great Depression. Stress levels are high, and the lawsuits against companies are stacking up.

It’s one of the latest hot topics currently debated by Democrats and Republicans as they struggle to address our nation’s unemployment crisis. President Obama tried to tackle the issue by proposing a jobs package that would make it more difficult for companies to turn away potential hires and give them incentives to hire more, but this measure failed last week in the Senate.

Whatever the outcome of the ongoing political debates and no matter what new employment laws are enacted, certain general principles will continue to apply. Here are some good basic tips to help employers avoid becoming targets for frivolous discrimination lawsuits from applicants:

●     Employers should keep in mind that they do not owe anything to applicants – they’re simply precluded from discriminating against them by refusing to consider or hire them because of characteristics including their race, national origin, age and gender. It’s that simple.

●     Some of the disgruntled applicants are alleging they weren’t hired because they are not currently employed or have been unemployed for a long time. Employers should not limit their advertisements and job searches to “employed” applicants. Current job status alone should never be the sole deciding factor.  Although this type of search might not technically be illegal, it constitutes bad business judgment because this criteria might cause companies to miss out on hiring great candidates.

●     Employers must take into account all aspects of potential hires, including their job history, education, qualifications, experience, and current job status, along with references and reputation information.

●     Consistency is the key, and it’s critical to treat all current and prospective employees similarly to avoid any appearance of impropriety or discrimination.

The good news: as long as employers do not discriminate against applicants and they base their decisions on legitimate criteria, they should be well-protected by the law, as it exists today.