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Counter bias claims: Show how your rational promotion process selects best candidates

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in Discrimination and Harassment,HR Management,Human Resources

When it comes to promotions, smart employers make sure they carefully document the selection process. That way, if an employee challenges the decision, the company will have something compelling to show the court.

Chances are, absent some direct evidence of discrimination, the court won’t interfere with the employer’s decision.

Recent case: Carla Sudduth, who is black, applied for a promotion at the U.S. Department of the Treasury. So did many others. Sudduth ended up on the “qualified” list, but wasn’t selected. Five open jobs went to four white employees and one black employee. All were chosen based on rankings by division supervisors.

Sudduth sued, alleging discrimination. But other than her own feeling that she had been discriminated against, she didn’t offer any discrimination evidence.

No one had exhibited racial animosity. All the supervisors who helped select the candidates had documented their preferences. All those assessments were based on work skills and direct observation. The court tossed out Sudduth’s case. (Sudduth v. Geithner, No. 1:09-CV-809, SD OH, 2012)

Final note: Courts really don’t want to be in the business of second-guessing employers. They want to believe employers act ethically and legally. Give them the proof.

Document your selection process and include specific examples of good work, good habits, education and training levels and any other business-related reasons that make it clear that you wanted to promote the best and brightest regardless of race, sex or some other characteristic.

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