Make sure your promotion decisions aren’t tainted by irrelevant information—such as whether an employee has filed discrimination complaints in the past.
If you use committees to make promotion recommendations or decisions, ensure that they don’t consider those prior complaints. Otherwise, you could be courting a retaliation lawsuit.
Recent case: Melissa was a 911 operator in San Antonio. Shortly after she got a new supervisor, Melissa complained to HR that he was harassing her by staring at her chest. The city investigated, but concluded that the problem was not severe enough to be considered sexual harassment.
Later, she applied for a promotion, but wasn’t selected. The promotion committee concluded she wasn’t the best candidate because, in her interview, she gave confusing and unresponsive answers to their questions.
Melissa sued, alleging that she had been retaliated against for complaining about sexual harassment.
But the city showed the court that none of the committee members knew anything about Melissa’s complaint. Therefore, they could not have retaliated against her. Her lawsuit was dismissed. (Finch v. City of San Antonio, No. 15-CV-521, WD TX, 2016)
Advice: Have hiring and promotion committees document their processes.
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