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When a medical supply company reorganized its sales force, it rated existing employees on a "matrix" of skills.

Although Deborah Goosby had won several sales awards, she was put in what she considered the least desirable of three job categories, "cold calling," or making unsolicited sales calls, in a new market.

The company says her poor administrative skills led to the assignment, but white men whose scores showed the same weaknesses got the job she wanted. The matrix, Goosby claims, was a camouflage for the division manager's decisions.

The federal appeals court let her race and sex discrimination case proceed. The court noted that even with apparently objective numerical scores, workers were rated on subjective qualities such as leadership or management skills. (Goosby v. Johnson & Johnson Medical Inc., No. 99-3819, 3rd Cir., 2000)

Advice: Objective scoring systems can help minimize claims of unlawful discrimination, but you have to follow the system. Deviating from the objective scoring process will harm your case against discrimination claims.

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