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Civil Rights Act of 1991

• volume 1 • number 4

The Civil Rights Act of 1991 (CRA '91) will elevate senior management interest in the way interviews are conducted in their companies. Jury trials and the opportunity for plaintiffs to be rewarded with compensatory and punitive damages will lead to more discrimination lawsuits. As we mentioned in our last newsletter, the recent Thomas confirmation hearings have heightened concern across the country to issues of discrimination in the workplace.

The CRA '91 now permits jury trials in cases of employment discrimination. Business people will have to be concerned that jurors are often swayed by their emotions and favor employees, especially when they have been fired. An emotional response from the jury not only influences findings of liability, but also affects the size of damage awards. While there is currently a cap on these awards, it will soon be challenged in the courts. Jury trials also run longer and at a greater cost than cases tried before a judge.

All of this suggests that untrained or careless interviewers will be loose cannons in the workplace of the 90's.

Motivation behind any employment decision will be scrutinized under CRA '91. Managers simply must not consider race, sex, religion, color or national origin in making employment decisions. If the candidate is turned down for nondiscriminatory reasons, but these other factors were "considered," the employer could be charged with a violation of the Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

"Consideration" becomes evident when interviewers include non-job related comments in their interview notes. And notes can include comments left on electronic mail. How comfortable do you feel about the way your company is conducting interviews?