Temp-to-permanent promotions the norm? Check for unintentional bias toward one group — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily

Temp-to-permanent promotions the norm? Check for unintentional bias toward one group

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Sometimes it makes sense to appoint workers to temporarily fill vacancies and then use your formal promotion process to make permanent appointments. But that practice carries some risk.

You could wind up in court if you make those temporary appointments permanent.

The problem: The employee on the temp-to-permanent track may have gained experience and training that gave him a leg up on the competition. And if the manager or supervisor who made the temporary appointments was even subconsciously favoring members of a particular group, the result could be an inadvertent but very real lack of diversity.

Recent case: Linda Card, who is black, worked for years in various secretarial positions for the city of Cleveland. She frequently went for promotions to water-plant operator positions, which were competitive civil-service positions. She never got one.

Instead, she repeatedly saw supervisors appoint men to the jobs on a temporary basis. Those men, in turn, ended up deemed “most qualified” when the jobs moved through the official promotion system.

Card sued, alleging an old-boy network that kept women from being promoted.

The court agreed she had enough evidence for a trial. It noted that almost every water-plant operator position had been filled by men who had received noncompetitive temporary spots first. (Card v. Cleveland, No. 1:08-CV-2325, ND OH, 2010)

Final note: Is there hidden discrimination in your promotion process? Conduct an informal audit to look for homogenous demographics within job classifications or departments.

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