Avoid a Lawsuit When Making a Job Offer: 3 Pitfalls to Watch For


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You’re ready to start the process of hiring a new employee. It’s an exciting prospect -- you’re welcoming someone new to your team who just might take a little bit of work off your plate.

But as soon as you bring in your first applicant for an interview (and even before), you open your Pennsylvania small business up to potential lawsuits.

Pennsylvania jugment disuputes attorney Jerry Berkowitz weighs in with three ways you, as an employer, can prevent a costly lawsuit during the hiring process.


Pitfall #1: A poorly conducted interview


An interview sets the tone for the potential working relationship between the applicant and your company. There’s a lot riding on that awkward conversation for the applicant and the company.

Many interviewers try to break the ice by asking some casual, personal questions.

Putting the applicant at ease is fine. Asking him or her questions that could later be construed as discrimination is not. Avoid these general topics when talking to a potential new employee:

  • age
  • disability
  • familial status
  • religious beliefs
  • race

Plenty of other topics are off limits. Consult with an expert on discrimination law in your state to make sure your interview processes are sound.


Pitfall #2: Incorrectly classifying an employee


Most employment agreements consider employees to be hired on an “at-will” basis, meaning the employer can terminate the worker at any time with no notice.

Be especially careful when offering workers contracts or hiring temporary workers. The laws governing these kinds of employees are different.


Pitfall #3: Conducting the wrong background check


Background checks are a great way to find out objective information about a potential hire. And in some professions they’re required or the industry standard.

But the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has made a point of going after illegal background checks recently.

A good strategy: Apply background checks consistently. Establish a set procedure and stick to it. That way you can show exactly how you handled the check if it ever comes up in court and the applicant can’t claim he or she received different treatment from other job hopefuls.


Consult an expert


The good news: There are very few hiring lawsuits filed in Pennsylvania. And hopeful employees rarely win these cases. But even if you’re able to successfully defend your company’s actions in court, it can still be an expensive process.

Your best bet is to talk to an expert to make sure your hiring processes are on solid legal ground before you start bringing in potential employees, who could also end up being potential plaintiffs against your company.


If your business is facing a lawsuit from an employee or job applicant, an experienced business attorney in your state can help.