R. Scott Oswald, Managing Principal of The Employment Law Group® law firm, was quoted in the online edition of Human Resource Executive, a monthly publication aimed at providing senior level human resource managers and directors with news in all areas of human resource management, including personnel and compliance.
The article focused on the implications for employers’ hiring policies in light of the recently decided Wagner v. Jones case. In the decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit allowed a professor who alleged that a public university discriminated against her because of her political beliefs to proceed to trial. The court held that the professor had presented enough evidence to suggest that the university’s decision not to hire her was at least in part motivated by her “constitutionally protected First Amendment rights of political belief and association.”
Responding to questions regarding the decision, Mr. Oswald noted that non-governmental employers are generally not prohibited from refusing to hire prospective employees due to their political beliefs or affiliations, with the exception of a few states and jurisdictions. However, the take-home message of the Wagner decision for private companies, according to Oswald, is that when “an employer deviates from its normal hiring protocol, it should ensure it has documented reasons for doing so” and should not depart from standard operating procedure in making a hiring decision.
In the case of Wagner, the plaintiff’s purported evidence of such a deviation from procedure included a conversation between Prof. Wagner and an employee of the university who told her that he was not aware of the university ever rejecting a candidate who had been recommended by the hiring committee as Wagner had been. According to Oswald, “the court found [this] significant”.
The article, entitled “Work and Politics”, appeared in the January 26, 2012 online edition of the magazine.
The Employment Law Group® law firm has an extensive discrimination practice and has broad experience fighting for the rights of employees who have been victims of discrimination in the workplace.