Can an employer hire a personal friend without interviewing any other applicants?

Our recently hired department head hired her friend as an engineering manager. This person has no prior managerial experience, yet no other applicants were interviewed for the job. In addition, the engineering manager's spouse was hired by the department head to work on the same project. All 3 individuals previously worked for a competitor. The duties of an existing engineering supervisor were taken away and given to the new manager who has no prior managerial experience. Are any of these actions illegal?

1 answer  |  asked Mar 8, 2015 1:31 PM [EST]  |  applies to California

Answers (1)

Marilynn Mika Spencer
While the manager's actions may have violated a company policy prohibiting nepotism, a violation of policy is not illegal. Nothing you mentioned indicates the employer or manager has done illegal. Employers, through their management team, have a lot of leeway in how they choose to run their businesses. In general, an employer can be unfair, obnoxious or bad at management. No law prevents an employer from playing favorites. And an employer can make decisions based on absurd, faulty or inaccurate information. An employer hires employees to provide work for its benefit, not for the benefit of the employees. Don't expect the employer to take care of its employees; it doesn’t have to and it rarely does.

There are some limitations on what an employer can do, mostly in the areas of public policy (such as discrimination law or whistle blowing), contract law, union-employer labor relations, and constitutional due process for government employees. Please see my guide to at-will employment in California which should help you understand employment rights: After you take a look at the guide, you may be able to identify actions or behavior that fits one of the categories that allows for legal action. If so, an experienced plaintiffs employment attorney may be helpful.

Employment rights come from the state and federal legislatures. One of the best things people can do to improve their employment rights is vote for candidates with a good record on pro-employee, anti-corporate legislation. Another way to protect employment rights is to form or affiliate with a union, or participate in a union already in place.

I hope there is a good resolution to this situation.

posted by Marilynn Mika Spencer  |  Mar 8, 2015 2:46 PM [EST]

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