One way to avoid claims of discrimination in hiring is to use an independent contractor or recruiter to screen and interview potential employees, right? Wrong! In a decision rendered September 10, 2009, a federal court of appeals in New York ruled that an apartment complex could be held liable for violations of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“the ADEA”) when an independent contractor told an applicant he was “too old” for the job showing apartments. Because the apartment complex delegated the hiring process to a third party, the apartment complex could be held liable for its “agent’s” conduct, even if it had no knowledge that the discriminatory hiring practices were occurring.

The court pointed out that this ruling only applies if the outside firm or agent is hiring applicants to work directly for the employer. You will not be held liable if an independent contractor hired to perform services for your company discriminates against its own employees.

If you do decide to use an outside firm or agent to assist you in screening applicants for a position in your company, however, you should make certain they are following EEO guidelines