‘Overqualified’ – a word you don’t want to use

by on December 14, 2012 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Cafe

What’s an employer to do when an older person who’s had high-level responsibility in previous jobs applies for a lower-level position with you?

Well, there’s one thing you’d better not do – reject them as “overqualified.”

It’s one of those code words that raise the suspicions of potential lawsuit plaintiffs, their lawyers, and the courts.

Age discrimination?
In the case of a rejected applicant to AmerisourceBergen Corp., the 60-year-old applicant thought overqualified meant “too old,” and the EEOC agreed, suing the company for age discrimination. The applicant was seeking a job managing the Valley Forge, PA-based company’s telecoms vendors. In the past, he’d been a telecoms engineer, project manager and director-level manager who negotiated vendor contracts.

Despite the company’s expressed fear about his “overqualification,” he insisted he was really interested in the job. But someone 20 years younger got it.

Takeaway: A lot of people these days are planning to work beyond the classic retirement age, and may be interested in jobs with less responsibility. Don’t assume these jobs will bore them so much that they’ll underperform.

Cite: EEOC v. AmerisourceBergen Corp.

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