When it comes to promotions, courts want employers to be honest and fair. Otherwise, they won’t interfere—unless the employer has no records to back up its promotion decisions or show how its decision-making process worked.
Advice: Make it a routine practice to gather all promotion-related notes, assessments and candidate scores, just in case you wind up having to later justify the selection.
Recent case: Carolyn Lucas, who is black, applied for a promotion to a GS-14 position with the Department of the Army. She wasn’t picked and sued, alleging race discrimination.
The Army had extensive records showing how it decided which candidate was best for the job, including interview notes and scores. Lucas couldn’t counter that with clear proof she was the best-qualified candidate. She didn’t outshine the selected employee, something that the records clearly showed.
The court said unless she could show that she was so qualified that a reasonable person couldn’t have passed her by, she didn’t have a case. (Lucas v. Secretary, Department of the Army, No. 11-11629, 11th Cir., 2012)
Final note: It may seem like a hassle to collect so much supporting documentation. It won’t be so onerous if you make it routine. Create a checklist for everyone who participates in the promotion process. On the checklist, be sure to include one final item: Forward all notes and related documents to HR.
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