Suiting Up

Screening Applicants

It's not easy to identify a professional plaintiff in the hiring process, however, because out-of-court settlements don't appear on the public record. So even if you search diligently, you may not uncover a history of lawsuits. But that doesn't mean you're out of luck. Karpeles offers the following suggestions:

  • Be suspicious of job candidates whose work histories show job changes every year or two.
  • When verifying prior employment, pay attention if the prior employers' references are very brief and limited to mundane virtues. "Often, these are attempts to hide real problems," Karpeles contends.
  • Let the applicant do most of the talking in the interview, and schedule follow-up interviews if necessary to give you a better sense of the candidate's past.
  • After screening applicants for job skills and experience, base your final selection on the candidates' work-related values and attitudes. Look for someone whose work ethic matches your company's culture.
  • To minimize the chance of being charged with discrimination, make sure your policies are written clearly and your procedures are consistent. By producing a well-written employee handbook, you create strong evidence of your consistent policies for any future employment lawsuit.

Don't agree to settle every claim out of court. Consider the evidence carefully, and if the claim appears to be merely an attempt to extort money from the company, don't give in. Getting the case to court where a judge can throw it out is one way to put the plaintiff's name on the public record for the benefit of future employers. The more employers fight chronic suers, the less profitable their scams will be.

"Prevention is the best way to avoid legal problems," Karpeles concludes. "Employers need to do their best to screen out professional plaintiffs while creating a work environment that gives little reason for anyone to sue."

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This article was originally published in the May 1999 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Suiting Up.

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