Ethical Dilemma

I'm working with a high level executive to hire her a new administrative assistant. She told me, confidentially of course, that she prefers to hire a white female. How do I deal with this? Feels like I'm doomed if I do and doomed if I don't!


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  • you are in a tough spot, but you have a few choices but doing nothing isn't one of them. the confidential nature of the exec's admission won't help your company in court if rejected applicants file a lawsuit. one option is to say something to the high level executive about being open-minded about candidates from all backgrounds and cite discrimination law (and maybe some jury verdicts). if the exec isn't receptive to your guidance you can then go up the chain of command. now that this issue is on your radar you are going to have to watch it carefully.
  • My view on this is that "confidential preferences" are the same thing as discrimination. Sounds like this executive needs some training. However, since you are probably not in a position to suggest this, the best tact may be to find the most highly qualified candidates of all races, colors, both male and female, and if the most qualified candidate is not a white female, tell the executive this, and suggest (tactfullly) that sex and racial preference are not legal bases on which to make an employment decision (depending on th executive, the wording to this would be tricky). Hopefully, her "preference" will be swayed by the individual's actual qualifications. If not, you have a pretty serious problem on your hands, and I would take it to the next level.  

  • I couldn't agree more. Now that you know about this, you have to do something about it. I would speak to the exec explainthat this kind of "preference" is actually illegal, and make sure that the applicant pool is diverse. Hiring cases are hard, but if ever called as a witness, you'd have to tell the truth.
  • Excellent posts! It sounds to me like you need to implement some sensitivity and tolerance training for your executives. Now that the EEOC has its ERACE initiatives- it would be a good idea. I truly feel for you, but remember an executive is still an employee and policies, procedures and the law applies equally to everyone.
  • Of course it's discrimination. Once those words left her mouth, she placed a rather large and awkward monkey on your back. You have obligations and one of your primary ones is to protect the assets of your company. The ONLY way to do that in this instance is to deal with it head on. By the way, you'll establish credibility in so doing. If not, you don't need to be there anyway. Look at this as an opportunity, not a position between a rock and a hard place. I don't 'feel for you', I envy the opportunity you have before you!

    Does the company have any sort of diversity goals or managerial expectations for diverse population of departments?

    I'd make it a point to include as broad a cross section of applicant diversity as I could possibly arrange.  In addition, I'd be sure this manager had a full and clear understanding of employment law as relates to this subject plus a refresher on company policy (if there is one).


  • Ok my first thought is to go out of my way to find the most qualified candidate, that nobody in their right mind could resist, and of course this entire pool would be non-white and male. THen after I had my laugh. I would bring in all the qualified candidates and work my plan. I would assess what training she has had on the legal hiring process, and others to determin if this is a level of management that has not had training. I would then take my findings to my boss with solution presented as a proactive means of protecting the company assets, and reputation. I would make sure that when I am team hiring that whomever else was part of the process had a booklet with the legal boundries for hiring. You are the expert and no doubt would be held accountable by your boss so this allows you to help them function in your relm.
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