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 thathad 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.
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