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Court: One less way to claim promotion bias

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Hiring,Human Resources

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, which has jurisdiction over Min­ne­sota employers, has refused to expand the ways in which employees who are passed over for promotions can sue. It turned down a request to allow a lawsuit alleging that previously denied promotions could be considered as evidence of bias in later promotion denials.

Recent case: Jeanette Jackson, who is black, worked as a UPS driver. At one time, the company’s promotion process required employees to express an interest in promotion in general before they could apply for specific positions that opened up.

Jackson tried to express her interest by filling out the proper forms, but her supervisor never forwarded her packet to HR. That made Jackson ineligible, and she was passed over for several promotions that went to white employees.

After the system changed so supervisor inaction couldn’t block applications, Jackson again expressed interest. She was still not chosen. This time, the white employee who won the promotion was clearly better qualified. That didn’t stop Jackson from suing.

She alleged that if she had received one of the prior promotions, she would have been as well-qualified as the chosen candidate. She also asked the court to allow her to show that the earlier promotion denials were based on race discrimination and the final denial was therefore tainted by past discrimination.

The court rejected the argument. It reasoned that each promotion denial was a discrete, separate ­action, not part of a longer chain of discrimination. Since she didn’t sue when those promotions were denied, she couldn’t sue now, claiming that being passed over earlier prevented her from being qualified for the final promotion. (Jackson v. United Parcel Service, No. 10-1440, 8th Cir., 2011)

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