Here’s an easy fix for a potentially big problem: Post all promotion openings. If you do, only employees who actually apply can take you to court. That can save thousands in legal fees and lost productivity. It also signals to employees that you value them and encourage equal opportunity.
On the other hand, if you don’t post promotion opportunities and make it clear exactly how employees should apply, employees you never considered promoting can sue.
Recent case: Sandra Culver was a longtime employee of CCL Label until she quit in a huff after a male colleague got a promotion she apparently wanted and believed she was qualified for.
The company didn’t post promotion opportunities. As a result, Culver never knew about the opening. After quitting, she sued, alleging sex discrimination.
CCL Label argued that because Culver had never applied for the job, it couldn’t have discriminated against her.
The court disagreed. It said that when employees have no way of knowing about promotions, they can sue over a missed opportunity. Essentially, the court said that by keeping the process closed, the company could be seen as hand-selecting those whom it believed were worthy of promotion at the expense of others who might be equally qualified but had no chance to show that. (Culver v. CCL Label, No. 10-5353, 6th Cir., 2012)
Final note: Culver ultimately lost her case, but not until after CCL Label spent big bucks on legal fees and lost time. Her case even went up on appeal, a very expensive process. In the end, Culver couldn’t prove that she was in fact as qualified as the male co-worker who got the promotion.