A Capehart Scatchard Blog

Beware the Job Interview!

By on May 31, 2022 in Other with 0 Comments

Just a few weeks ago, I did a training on an often overlooked dangerous legal area for employers: the job interview. One of the things that I harped on repeatedly during my talk was how participants in the interview process must know what is (and is not) legally appropriate. A recent case here in New Jersey illustrates my frequently stated concerns about this neglected subject that should make all employers beware of job interviews!

On April 13, 2022, a jury in a New Jersey Superior Court matter, Corbin v. American Home Crafters Remodeling, awarded a Plaintiff $31,600 in damages in a Law Against Discrimination (“LAD”) case for what can be rightly classified as her experiencing the “job interview from hell.” During that interview, a seemingly inebriated employee of Defendant made numerous improper statements about Plaintiff, ranging from odd comments about her high-heeled shoes to questioning whether her teenager children had been breast fed.  After Plaintiff was offered the job of administrative assistant, Plaintiff was handed a glass of whiskey to celebrate her hiring, which she drank and was then offered a second one. During that time, Plaintiff’s interviewer then began making numerous vulgar comments requesting that Plaintiff have sex with him. Prompted by concerns regarding the interviewer’s behavior the Plaintiff left.

Thereafter, the interviewer attempted multiple times to contact Plaintiff and convince her to not report his loathsome behavior. After speaking to Plaintiff’s husband and learning that Plaintiff had already filed a police report concerning his conduct, the interviewer emailed Plaintiff and rescinded the job offer stating that Plaintiff was not a “good fit for the job.”

In bringing her lawsuit, the Plaintiff alleged that the interviewer’s conduct was in violation of the LAD’s prohibitions regarding sexual harassment and retaliation. During the course of the trial, the entire interview was played to the jury because it had been videotaped on a company surveillance camera. 

In defense of the claim, the Defendant argued that since Plaintiff was not an employee, she could not be harassed in a job interview. The jury ultimately rejected this defense, and awarded both $8,400 in economic damages and $22,000 in emotional distress damages. Along with those significant damages, the court eventually awarded a whopping $138,190 in legal fees under the fee shifting section of the LAD that requires the reimbursement of a prevailing party’s legal fees. Ouch!

An extreme case example? Maybe? But it illustrates why employers must pay attention to this overlooked area where employers must ensure that they abide by legal rules that restrict what can and should not be done during a job interview. And the best way to eliminate these types of cases from occurring is training your employees on how to conduct job interviews. While a simple question asking a female candidate whether she has any children seems innocuous, it isn’t.  It could be construed by the candidate as a reflection of possible gender bias against her employment candidacy. There are numerous other similar questions like these that can seem harmless but in fact could be the precursor for potential legal action against both the employer and the interviewer. These kinds of traps for the unwary must be addressed by employers as part of regular training for all employees involved in the interview process so that you and your company can avoid a similar “interview from hell” scenario that can cost you hundreds of thousands of dollars in having to defend against a possible lawsuit like this one.

So, start paying attention to how your employees do job interviews, and educate them now on the Do’s and Don’ts of the process to minimize your potential for future legal problems in this often ignored area of employment law.              

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About the Author

About the Author:

Mr. Smith is Co-Chair of Capehart Scatchard's Labor & Employment Group. He practices in employment litigation and preventative employment practices, including counseling employers on the creation of employment policies, non-compete and trade secret agreements, and training employers to avoid employment-related litigation. He represents both companies and individuals in related complex commercial litigation before federal states courts and administrative agencies in labor and employment cases including race, gender, age, national origin, disability and workplace harassment and discrimination matters, wage-and-hour disputes, restrictive covenants, grievances, arbitrations, drug testing, and employment related contract issues.

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