When making promotion decisions, discrimination prohibited, fairness optional — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily

When making promotion decisions, discrimination prohibited, fairness optional

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Here’s something to think about when you agonize over internal staffing moves: As long as you don’t use discrimination as an excuse to deny someone a promotion, your decision doesn’t have to pass some vague fairness test. The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals says that while discrimination is illegal, fairness isn’t required.

Recent case: Jackalin Wilson, who is black, worked for the Carolina Healthcare System. She applied for a promotion, but wasn’t picked. Instead, someone else had essentially been preselected for the job.

Wilson sued, alleging race discrimination.

But she didn’t have any evidence that race played a role in the decision not to promote her. At best, she could show that management had someone in mind for the job and didn’t want to consider others. That’s not discrimination even if it’s unfair. The court said Wilson had no case. (Williams v. Carolina Health­­care System, No. 11-1394, 4th Cir., 2011)

Final note: Being fair may not be an absolute legal requirement, but it sure helps maintain employee morale. No one wants to be passed over for a promotion because management has a few favorites.

Also remember that, while a single promotion of a favorite may not mean a lost lawsuit, a pattern of promotions that bypass members of a protected class may. Although it may look like management is simply promoting favorites, there’s often unspoken discrimination at work, whether it’s the old-boy network cutting out women, or an upper management group that looks all white.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Benita Blocker February 5, 2012 at 9:03 am

I agree with your statement about fair treatment being optional. However, the law prefers for companies to hire the best qualified candidates. When companies make up a lame excuse for not hiring the best qualified candidate because they have a favorite that is less qualified, it seems borderline illegal. You may be asking how would I know that the selected candidate was less qualified? I ended up interviewing the candidate thinking she was applying for a job other than the same one that I was also applying for. Also, the position was so specialized that it was clear who had the most relevant, recent industry experience. In addition, Carolinas Healthcare System prides itself on diversity and inclusion. They do have diversity, but they have plenty of room for improvement on inclusion. I would recommend that they just pride themselves on diversity without inclusion. They have become to big to try to be inclusive.

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