Not every organization has a formal program for handling internal promotions. Some rely strictly on supervisor recommendations and employees’ expressions of interest to identify candidates. That can lead to big trouble if supervisors can’t later articulate who wanted a promotion and why they recommended (or declined to recommend) an employee for a new job.
Recent case: Tunde Ajao, who is black and of Nigerian origin, was hired as a department manager at a Texas Bed Bath & Beyond store. His bosses told him he could expect quick promotions if he worked hard.
But Ajao was passed over for promotion several times in favor of white employees. The company had a casual approach to the promotion process, relying heavily on supervisors’ recommendations. In other words, one could not apply for a promotion, but had to be selected.
Ajao sued, alleging race and national origin discrimination.
His case was dismissed. Ajao’s supervisor was able to show he kept careful track of —and that Ajao didn’t earn a recommendation because he was absent frequently and didn’t complete projects. Ajao couldn’t prove those reasons were false. (Ajao v. Bed Bath and Beyond, No. 06-10779, 5th Cir., 2008)
Final note: The best promotion-from-within programs don’t rely solely on supervisors’ identification of promising employees. Lots of companies have gotten in big trouble that way. For example, both Wal-Mart and Costco are currently facing class action lawsuits alleging sex discrimination: Female employees claim that their male supervisors never considered them for . Prevent lawsuits by implementing a formal process that posts open jobs, lists the minimum requirements and includes a fair and impartial selection process.
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