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Train supervisors to keep promotion processes moving

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in Leaders & Managers,Management Training

Have you stressed to supervisors and managers that they shouldn’t let an employee’s promotion paperwork sit on their desks for weeks at a time? If not, do it now.

Here’s why: Sitting on a promotion can be an adverse employment action. A supervisor who is otherwise harassing an employee may hold up the paperwork as punishment, out of vindictiveness or to retain the employee for a longer period. The promotion delay may be what triggers the lawsuit. So push to get the paperwork flowing.

Recent case: Gloria Bannon, who is of Mexican ancestry, worked as a secretary for a man she later claimed constantly harassed her and spewed racial insults. She was eager to work for a different boss and applied in-house for an open position.

Bannon’s potential new supervisor wanted to hire her. All that remained was her present supervisor’s agreement. He sat on the paperwork for about nine days. Then she sued for discrimination and a hostile work environment.

In addressing the promotion issue, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals said that delaying a promotion can be an adverse employment action. However, in this case, the delay was minimal. The court said that taking nine days was “not unreasonable,” since the “supervisor likely has other tasks.” (Bannon v. University of Chicago, No. 06-2955, 7th Cir., 2007)

Advice: There’s no set guideline for what constitutes a delayed promotion—but apparently nine working days isn’t enough. Your best bet may be to set a reasonable internal deadline such as 30 days. Create a tickler file so you’ll know when to start nagging management slackers.

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