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Establish promotion criteria to discourage lawsuits

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in Discrimination and Harassment,HR Management,Human Resources

If your organization is like many, employees anxious to move up the ladder covet promotions. But if you have no clear-cut standards or easy-to-explain criteria, lawsuits lurk behind every unqualified, but passed-over, employee.

The best way to protect the organization from frivolous lawsuits is to tell employees exactly what education and other qualifications are required for each position. That way, they can look at their possible career paths, get additional training and education and apply for positions for which they are truly—not just marginally—qualified. Plus, you will have defensible and reasonable explanations for why you selected the candidates you did.

Recent case: Henry Adams, who is black, worked as an administrative assistant for the Cobb County School District.

The position was one of the lowest-ranking jobs on the ladder toward becoming a principal. Adams did have the required education to become a principal and applied when a position opened up.

He didn’t get the job and sued, alleging race discrimination. But the HR office explained the school district’s career path and the minimum requirements—in addition to education—that the district expected of principals. Candidates would have to work as assistant principals for a minimum of several years before they would be considered on a par with others who had done so.

Because the school district could explain the career path and its expectations, and because Adams clearly didn’t have the experience his employer required, the court dismissed the case. (Adams v. Cobb County School District, et al., No. 06-15103, 11th Cir., 2007)  

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