March 23, 2016

While certain industries or positions may appear to typically employ a certain type of person, employers must be vigilant and ensure that job qualifications – whether written or not – do not implicate a protected class such as age or gender.  Avoiding classifications implicating protected classes is something that applies at all levels of employment, but it applies especially during the hiring process.  

Recently, a medical device manufacturer settled a class action lawsuit for over $1 million because they were stuck in a hiring mold (see EEOC v. PMT Corporation, Civil Action No. 0:14-CV-00599 (D. Minn.)).  In this lawsuit, the EEOC alleged that the medical device corporation’s hiring process for its outside sales force resulted in it hiring only young (under 40) and male sales representatives. In a three-year period, the company hired 70 new sales representatives.  Not one of the applicants hired in this period was female.

Specifically, in that case, the EEOC’s investigation found evidence and testimony that the company used dates of college graduation to screen out older applicants for the position, which implicated the protected class of age. 

There was also evidence that the company intentionally did not select women applicants.  The evidence indicated that women were not selected because of an unfounded “belief” that women could not complete the necessary travel required of the sales position.  This internal belief was based solely on the applicant’s gender, not the specific abilities or qualifications of the applicant to complete the necessary job duties.

As a result of the class action lawsuit, the corporation has to pay damages to the class of rejected sales representative applicants who were women or were over 40 years old.  In addition to monetary damages, the corporation will be monitored closely by the EEOC for the next four years.  It also has to revise its hiring practices for sales representatives to ensure that future applicants are considered for employment based on merits, not his or her age or gender.


  • Never use preconceived ideas about the “ideal job applicant” when hiring new employees.
  • Always be mindful of protected class classifications in hiring new employees to avoid discrimination claims by rejected applicants or the EEOC.
  • Periodically revaluate your hiring practices, including any screening procedures, to ensure that no protected class bias or preference is used in applicant selection and applicants are reviewed solely on their merits.


Please contact a Gjording Fouser lawyer at 208.336.9777 if you would like any additional information about this topic or any other employment issues facing your company.