In Florida, documenting applicant interviews is standard practice among many employers, aiding in the assessment of candidates for vacant positions. However, what might seem like a routine procedure could potentially become a double-edged sword, especially in the realm of employment discrimination lawsuits.

Consider a recent case where an employee filed a Title VII race discrimination claim against his employer. Following the settlement of this initial lawsuit, the employee applied for various positions within the company approximately 26 times. Despite being interviewed once and ranked favorably, he was not offered the position. Instead, candidates ranked lower than him were hired.

Undeterred, the applicant pursued legal action again, this time bringing forth a Title VII retaliation claim for not being hired. The case, Calvert v. Doe, 2016 U.S. App. LEXIS 7413 (11th Cir. Apr. 25, 2016), saw the employer initially succeeding with a summary judgment at the lower court level. However, this decision was overturned on appeal by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which controls in Florida.

The crux of the appellate court's decision rested on the circumstantial evidence presented by the applicant, which suggested a potential discriminatory motive on the part of the employer. Notably, an email exchange between the human resources coordinator and the final decision-maker raised eyebrows. The email, sent between the applicant's interview and the distribution of job offers, highlighted the applicant's past termination by the employer, a fact pertinent to his previous discrimination lawsuit.

Furthermore, the decision-maker testified that the applicant's repeated inquiries for employment influenced her decision not to hire him. Adding to the suspicion was an unexplained notation of "skip" next to the applicant's name on the interview score sheet and recommendation form. Though the human resources coordinator admitted to writing this note, she claimed ignorance regarding its origin or meaning.

In the eyes of the appellate court, this amalgamation of evidence painted a compelling picture suggesting retaliatory motives behind the employer's hiring decision. The fact that the applicant, despite being ranked among the top candidates, was overlooked for employment further fueled these suspicions.

For Florida businesses and HR professionals, this case serves as a stark reminder of the potential legal ramifications associated with interview documentation. While these records aim to facilitate fair and transparent hiring practices, they could inadvertently provide ammunition for discrimination claims if not meticulously maintained and interpreted.

Moving forward, it's imperative for Florida employers to exercise prudence when documenting interviews, ensuring that any notations or comments are objective, relevant, and devoid of discriminatory undertones. Additionally, fostering a workplace culture that prioritizes diversity, equity, and inclusion can mitigate the risk of retaliation claims and promote a more harmonious and legally compliant employment environment.

This case reminds employers of how notations made during the hiring process can be used against the employer.  Some Florida business owners are unaware of the discrimination laws.  Some Florida businesses do not have an experienced Human Resources professional.  This is the type of situation where the Florida company should consider consulting with an experienced employment lawyer.  If you have questions about hiring or retaliation, please call our firm at
1-772-465-5111 or you can email our firm for Employment law assistance for your Florida business.

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How Interview Documentation Can Impact Retaliation Lawsuits: Lessons for Florida Employers

Law Office of David Miklas, P.A.

Labor & Employment law - Employers only