If, like many organizations, you try to promote from within, make certain you have a clear process that someone in HR oversees. Otherwise, managers and supervisors who have specific people in mind for promotion may “tip off” some employees while leaving others in the dark. If such informal arrangements mean some employees miss out on possible promotions or don’t know they have to take steps to apply, get ready to defend against discrimination claims.
The best approach is to announce all internal job opportunities well in advance. The announcement—which you might post on the company intranet, on a designated bulletin board or in the company newsletter—should specify all the basic information employees need in order to apply. The more transparent the process, the better.
Recent case: Derek Streeter and several other black firefighters sued the city of Pensacola, alleging race discrimination. For example, the firefighters said that the number of upcoming promotions was kept secret in order to dissuade black firefighters from taking the appropriate promotion tests and getting on the promotion list.
The court said their claim was too speculative in this case and dismissed the claim, but only after months of litigation and legal costs. The city could have avoided the lawsuit altogether if it had a consistent and open posting policy. (Streeter v. City of Pensacola, et al., No. 3:05-286, ND FL, 2007)
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