Is Using USNews Ranking in Making Hiring Decisions Discriminatory?

That’s what Drexel 3L William Hanrahan claims in a newly filed complaint against Dechert LLP.  According to Hanrahan, though he ranks #4 in Drexel’s class, Dechert (and other large firms) hire disproportionately from higher ranked schools, and consequently refused to hire him.  Why is that a problem? Well, here’s what the complaint says:

screenshotHanrahan, who suffers from “Asperger’s Syndrome, an Autism Spectrum Disorder, and a concomitant non-verbal learning disability,” also argues that Drexel accepted more students than other local schools with disabilities, and that refusal to hire from Drexel tends to disproportionately screen out non-disabled candidates.

I’m not an expert in this area of the law, but I thought the complaint provided an interesting set of facts for discussion. My uninformed view is that the chain of causation (disability –> lower LSAT –> lower-ranked school –> fewer job offers) isn’t incredible, but that it’s hard to imagine a judge forcing firms to discount rankings (which, after all, aren’t entirely or even mostly based on student credentials) when making hiring decisions.


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3 Responses

  1. Anon E. Mouse says:

    FYI, this guy has sued three Philadelphia firms.

    2:14-cv-06562-WY HANRAHAN v. BLANK ROME LLP
    2:14-cv-06564-WY HANRAHAN v. DECHERT LLP

    The Pepper suit includes a disparate impact claim under Title XI. Basically, since Drexel students are (apparently) more likely to be white, the failure to hire from that school constitutes racial discrimination.

  2. Anon E. Mouse says:

    Sorry, Tile VII…

  3. Dave Hoffman says:

    Posted on behalf of Andrew Selbst, who is having trouble getting through our filters
    “Solon Barocas and I discuss this in a recent article, Big Data’s Disparate Impact, in which we make the same claim with respect to rankings generated by data mining generally. We essentially predict this lawsuit as a hypo on pp. 18-19, where we take college credentials as an example of data that is relevant but too coarse-grained to be truly accurate. (The paper is about the different ways in which data mining can introduce or reproduce unintentional discrimination, and how Title VII largely cannot address them.)

    It’s unlikely that a court would invalidate a ranking system that has any validity under the EEOC’s Uniform Guidelines (or even under “common sense” in some cases). Moreover, where a third party creates the ranking system (like USNWR or a data broker), there’s no way an employer could improve it, so the choice for a court is to either block the use of the rankings entirely or not, with no possibility of demanding that they be improved or claiming that there’s a less discriminatory alternative employment practice available.

    Unless he can prove that the rankings are so lacking in predictive ability that they should never be used, he’s gonna be out of luck. It is doubtful a court would find that.”