The reality of the modern workplace is that at any given time, someone is going to be unhappy. Promotions may not come. Resentment may arise from working with employees from many racial, ethnic or religious backgrounds. Simply put, it’s next to impossible to prevent all discrimination claims.
You can, however, minimize the risk of being sued by developing clear and open workplace and promotion policies. Then follow them. The cost of haphazard policies is multiple lawsuits.
Recent case: Four employees of the Department of Corrections filed a single discrimination lawsuit. They alleged various acts of discrimination and retaliation as well as the existence of a hostile work environment. Many of their complaints stemmed from denied promotions, transfers, negative and other workplace slights. One woman alleged that her co-workers said she had been hired only because of “affirmative action.”
Clearly, many of the workplace problems at the heart of the lawsuit stemmed from the absence of clear evaluation and promotion policies. For example, one woman’s supervisor told her he wanted to promote her but never got around to processing the paperwork.
Although the court dismissed many of the charges, it allowed others to go forward—including the failure-to-promote claim of the woman with the slow-moving boss. (Spencer, et al., v. Department of Corrections, No. A07-0462, Minnesota Court of Appeals, 2008)
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