Can’t open the paper, can’t turn on the TV, and can’t click the ON button on your computer without being blasted with news of the ongoing economic downturn.At business all over this country, the exit is getting a lot more use than the entrance.Seems like all companies are doing today is laying people off.With all of this attention on getting people out of the door, we are not paying a lot of attention to the right way to get people in the door.Frankly, it’s starting to show.For example, take a look at Johnson v. Proline Concrete Tools, No. 08-909, ED CA, 2009.You see, Lindsey Johnson applied for a position at Proline.During the interview she was asked about her plans to have more children and told that it would be tough to do the job with a newborn at home.Ms. Johnson got the job.She must have assured the interviewer that she didn’t plan on having any more children.
Well, guess what?That’s right, Ms. Johnson got pregnant.Seems her supervisor was not happy, at least that’s the way she told it to the court.Shortly after Ms. Johnson announced her pregnancy the company announced a downsizing and guess who got let go.Ms. Johnson, that’s who.Now aren’t we all shocked?Oh, the company let a guy go too.Some lawyer probably told them to do that so it would look better.Thing is some months later the company hired men to do jobs strikingly similar to what Ms. Johnson was doing.Anyone want to guess what Ms. Johnson did next?That’s right she sued.
Now the company defended by saying it had a legitimate business reason for letting Ms. Johnson go, the downsizing, and so the case should be dismissed.The Court, in what I am sure was a statement dripping with sarcasm said something like Nice try, but I don’t think so.The court held that Ms. Johnson had plenty of evidence to prove that her pregnancy was a motivating factor in the decision to terminate her.
So, how do you avoid this?Just to be sure, make everyone who conducts interviews in your organization review the Michigan Pre-Employment Inquiry Guide.You can find it at http://www.michigan.gov/mdcr/0,1607,7-138-4954_4997—,00.html With things as tight as they are it’s a safe bet you have someone doing interviews that does not have a bunch of experience doing interviews. Having an understanding of what you can ask and not ask can go a long way to making sure that some stray remark does not end up as the cornerstone of a discrimination suit. Now I’m not suggesting that what happened to Ms. Johnson was a stray remark. I don’t know, I wasn’t in the interview. But, reviewing the Guide might also help get some dialogue going at work and help you educate the people who just might need to be educated. That way you can avoid intentional remarks too. Better safe than sorry.