It doesn’t take much to get a lawsuit going. Employees just have to show what’s called a “prima facie case” that discrimination may be the reason why they weren’t promoted or failed to receive benefit of employment that was afforded to someone of a different race, sex or other protected characteristic.
That’s fairly easy to do. Something as simple as an employer not following its own promotion policies will do the trick.
Recent case: Bridget, who is not white, worked for the North Carolina Department of Revenue. The agency has a set of policies that dictate how hiring and promotion decisions are supposed to be made.
When it created two new positions and appointed two white men to the jobs without following the policies, Bridget sued, alleging race and gender discrimination.
The court said all she had to allege to make out a prima facie case was that she was similarly qualified and never got a chance to win one of the jobs, as the policy called for. The court allowed her lawsuit to continue. (Taylor v. North Carolina Department of Revenue, No. 3:12-CV-860, WD NC, 2014)
Final note: The best way to avoid unnecessary and expensive litigation over promotions is to make the process transparent. Let employees know what they have to do to be considered for promotions. Announce each opening. List the minimum qualifications. Set an application deadline.
Note who applied, how well their qualifications matched the job requirements and why they were or weren’t selected.