Firm guilty of gender bias in interview procedures?

In a recent court case, a job applicant claimed she’d been denied a job because of her gender. Read our fictionalized account of the circumstances of the case and see if you can correctly determine the judge’s decision.

The scene:

Supervisor Pat Breslin marched into HR manager Lynn Rondo’s office and put a letter on her desk.

“The VP just passed this letter on to me,” said Pat. “Remember Kate Swells?”

“She was one of the candidates we rejected last month, right?” asked Lynn.

“Yeah, and now she’s suing us,”  said Pat.

Questions were too subjective

“Kate says our interview process is biased,” Pat continued.

He picked up the letter and scanned it.

“One, all of the people who interviewed her were men,” said Pat, counting on his fingers. “Two, she said the interview questions were ‘purely subjective’ and they ‘lacked any relationship to actual job tasks or skills.’

“In short, Kate says she was qualified but rejected because we geared our interview more towards ‘soft’ skills,” said Pat.

“The reason we didn’t hire her is because she had a terrible interview,” said Lynn. “And we ask each applicant the exact same questions – you know that.”

“Well, it is true the managers involved in the interview process were all men … think they could  hold that against us in court?” asked Pat.

Kate sued for gender bias.

Did the company win?


Yes, the company won.

The judge said it wasn’t up to candidates to decide how a company evaluates its applicants – that’s the employer’s job.

In addition, the “soft skills” Kate claimed were unrelated to the job were actually essential for the position she was interviewing for.

And the fact that all the interviewers were men?

Not a problem, said the judge. There was no evidence the male interviewers treated female candidates any differently from men, nor did the court find any of the interviewers to have discriminatory attitudes.

Most importantly: Each applicant, regardless of gender, was asked exactly the same questions.

Analysis: Consistency is the key

With more candidates applying for fewer jobs, it’s become increasingly common for unsuccessful applicants to sue employers.

How can you prevent this from happening? Double-check to make sure your interview process is airtight.

Stress to your managers the importance of sticking to company policy during the interview process. The key is consistency.

Cite: Turner v. Public Service Co. of Colorado

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