February 25, 2013

And You Thought Today Was Going Well…

By Paul Bieber

And it was.  The business was running smooth, your backlog has been holding up, and you got a good feeling from the GC on a big job you were bidding.  The new glazier you hired last month has meshed well into your operation.  Baseball is knocking on the door and you came into work with a happy smile on your face.

Then he came in and asked for you.  Just some ordinary looking guy without a selling briefcase on his arm.  Your office manager called you to the front desk, Mr. Ordinary asked if you were the owner, you said yes and he pulled an envelope out of his jacket pocket, handing it to you.  You’ve been served. 

It was a notification of a lawsuit against you, by a guy you don’t think you ever heard of, for discriminatory hiring practices.  As my kids say, “WTF?!”  Your day just started going downhill.  You call your attorney, he does some calling around and you are being sued by the guy you DIDN’T hire for the glazier’s job.  He thought you didn’t hire him because of a perceived bias.  You don’t even remember the guy; let’s call him Mr. Johnson.  You interviewed about fifteen out-of-work glaziers and you selected the one with the best skills whom you also thought would get along well in your company.  And, looking back to paragraph one, he has done just that.

Your attorney sends you twenty pages of questions to answer.  He wants Johnson’s resume and/or employment application, your notes from the interview, and then, every other application/resume from the week that you hired.  After that, he wants every application from anyone who has applied to work with you in the past two years, along with your notes.  He wants the background of every current employee and all of your employees over the past three years.  There’s more, but you, dear reader, get the drift. 

In America, the land of the free, anyone is free to sue another, for anything.  You know that; you’ve seen the stupid stories on TV.  Why you, why now?  Well, in hiring you cannot discriminate against applicants based on:

  • Age
  • Disability
  • Genetic Information
  • National Origin
  • Pregnancy
  • Race/Color
  • Religion
  • Sexual Preferance
  • Union Affiliation or Preference

You know all about these, except for that last one, which you now find out was the reason for the suit.  It seems Mr. Johnson had been working for a union-affiliated shop, went through a lay-off and applied at your shop.  His suit claims that you didn’t hire him because he said he enjoyed working for his last employer with the union benefits plan.  He said you made a sarcastic remark when that came up, which he interpreted as a bad sign for his chances of getting hired. 

The suit aks for unspecified damages, but your attorney said it could end up being at least $250,000.  Holy Cow!  Add $25,000 in legal fees.  But wait…Mr. Johnson’s attorney calls a few days later and offers to settle the suit for $20,000.  After your attorney looks at your responses to his requests for information from you, he says you are going to lose in court.  He negotiates the settlement down to $16,000 and tells you to write the check.  WTF!?

Next week we’ll go over why this happened and the ways to reduce the chances of this happening again.