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Establish rules on internal promotions to avoid lawsuits

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Law,Human Resources

When it comes to internal promotions, you’re on the safest legal ground if you set clear procedures. That way, employees who don’t land coveted promotions can’t claim the reason was discrimination. Here are three basics:

  • Draft a step-by-step guide to promotions, laying out exactly the experience, training and education required for each position.
  • Make sure employees know where to access information about promotions, and track all their promotion requests, even oral ones.
  • Consider setting specific requirements for each step of the process, such as providing self-study materials, seminars and testing.

Recent case: Michael Ozier, a black male employee at an Arby’s restaurant, became frustrated as he watched white females promoted to manager while he kept working behind the counter.

Ozier suspected race and sex discrimination. He filed an EEOC complaint and lawsuit.

But Arby’s was prepared. It had an extensive paper trail showing that, unlike other employees, Ozier didn’t take advantage of the company’s promotion program. Arby’s gave all employees a self-study book and instructed them to complete the exercises before scheduling a written exam. Ozier never completed the book.

Because he didn’t follow Arby’s promotion plan, he couldn’t sue for discrimination. (Ozier v. RTM Enterprises, No. 05-2027, 6th Cir., 2007)  

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