Supervisors don’t have crystal balls that help them tell the future or read employees’ minds. Unless an employee expresses an interest in being promoted, they don’t have to consider him for open positions.
Recent case: Erick Moore worked for the U.S. Postal Service and sued when he didn’t get a promotion. But his supervisors said they had no idea he was interested. He never applied, even though the job notice was available to all employees.
The court tossed out his claim. (Moore v. Donahoe, No. 10-35976, 9th Cir., 2011)
Final note: The rules change if you don’t have a clear promotion process that makes it easy for employees to learn about opportunities. Relying on word of mouth to hire and promote is dangerous because someone who would have applied can sue for failure to hire or promote under those circumstances.