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Learn to prevent lawsuits before you even hire an employee

Preventing employment-related lawsuits isn't easy. You even have to be careful with potential employees -- the applicants you meet during a hiring process.

To insulate your company against people who feel that they were mistreated or discriminated against during the hiring process, take the following steps:

1. Make sure that your interviewers know what constitutes discrimination.

It doesn't hurt to make sure that anyone interviewing potential job candidates knows what not to ask. For example, it's important not to ask questions about:

  • Age
  • Race or ethnic origin
  • Gender
  • Religion
  • Marital status or family planning
  • Disabilities

Even in a relaxed atmosphere, steer conversations away from personal topics and stick to the professional topics. That makes it easier to genuinely assert that you had no reason to discriminate against a particular candidate.

2. Treat every candidate you interview the same.

In other words, if you have a set of questions you intend to ask every candidate, ask them. Don't stop -- even if you've decided that a particular candidate isn't suitable for the position.

That way, a candidate can't assert that he or she was treated any differently than any other candidate for the job.

3. Ask a manager or co-worker to observe the interview.

These days, it simply never hurts to be cautious. You're less likely to encounter fabricated tales of quid pro quo sexual harassment -- where a candidate alleges that he or she was offered the job in exchange for sexual favors -- during the job interview if there was a third party present.

4. Keep notes of the interviews and your decision process.

If your basis for hiring one candidate over another is called into question, the notes you kept during the interview and selection process could become valuable pieces of documentation -- a testament to the fact that your hiring process was based strictly on the qualifications of the candidates.

When it comes to matters of employment litigation, a strong offense is actually worth far more than a good defense. Start with clearly defined practices from the hiring process onward in order to avoid litigation later.

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