California Court Rejects Age Discrimination Claim Despite Failure to Interview or Consider Applicant

Sometimes, in refusal to hire cases, older applicants argue that they were victims of age discrimination if they were not offered job interviews or considered for the position applied for. In the case of Reeves v. MV Transportation, Inc. filed July 9, 2010, a California appellate court rejected just such a claim, in the case of a transportation company who hired a younger attorney for an in-house general counsel position based on a favorable general impression and a recommendation from a known colleague.

The 56-year old plaintiff in that case, David Reeves, had worked two stints as an attorney for the National Labor Relations Board and as an in-house attorney for two private companies over a period of 27 years. He applied for the position of a labor and employment attorney with MV Transportation, but was not interviewed for the job. Instead, a 40-year old attorney was hired for the job, after the company’s General Counsel John Baird formed an “extremely favorable impression of her” following her interview and her recommendation from an attorney he knew at the firm at which she worked. Baird did not interview Reeves for the job, based on both his positive interview of the successful candidate and the lack of time. He also considered a message Reeves sent about his qualifications to be arrogant, and was put off by Reeves responding to the ad for the position by sending his resume during working time from a government-owned computer.

The court noted that there is “nothing unlawful about an employer’s basing its hiring decision on subjective criteria, such as the impression an individual makes during an interview,” so long as the older candidate does not have demonstrably superior qualifications. Accordingly, although it is usually more preferable from a risk management perspective to interview all qualified candidates, the Reeves case provides support to employers who choose to cut short the hiring process due to time constraints or other factors once it is convinced that it has found the right person for the job.

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