Employers that use formal promotion processes probably won’t lose a failure-to-promote lawsuit if the employee in question didn’t even bother applying. But employers that use informal methods may be blindsided by lawsuits alleging discriminatory promotion practices without even having had a chance to review the employee’s qualifications.
That’s a good reason to ditch a casual, “good old boy” network system that relies on supervisor recommendations. Instead, use a process that includes posted job announcements and application deadlines.
Recent case: Andre Watkins, who is black, worked for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) as an airport screener. His white supervisor had been promoted from a screener position.
Watkins was fired because he used all his available sick and annual leave to cover absences during his probationary period and then stayed off work for nearly a month. The TSA asked him to provide medical reasons for the absence, but he did not. Nor did he call in as instructed.
Watkins sued, alleging that discrimination kept him from being promoted.
The court tossed out his claim after the TSA pointed out the agency’s promotion process that requires formal announcement of job opportunities and requires interested employees to submit applications. That’s what his supervisor had done—and what Watkins failed to do. (Watkins v. Napolitano, No. 10-10295, 11th Cir., 2010)
Final note: If all employees have e-mail access, consider a weekly or monthly e-mail that lists all open positions and provides application instructions.