The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit confirmed that variations in the interviewing process do not necessarily indicate discrimination.
In Barnes v. Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois, the African-American employee claimed race discrimination when a Caucasian candidate was selected for a promotion based on his interview. The employee claimed the interview process was unfair because the hiring manager conducted the interviews by himself, did not ask the same questions of all candidates, and did not document why he selected the successful candidate. Nonetheless, the Seventh Circuit stated, “just because interviews are not cookie-cutter does not mean they are discriminatory.” It further noted that, although the process may not have been “accurate, wise, or well-considered,” the employee could not show that the explanation of the selection based on the interview was a lie, which was required to sustain his discrimination claim.
Although this case emphasizes that employers have discretion in making employment decisions, and the court will not second-guess an employer’s legitimate business decisions even if it may not agree with them, it still offers a cautionary note that having more regulated processes and better documentation could help avoid discrimination claims.