Employees who complain about discrimination or offer to support another’s discrimination complaint sometimes fear that doing so will blacklist them from promotions or raises. When they, in fact, lose out on promotions, those denials can confirm their fears—and prompt them to file lawsuits.
You can put a stop to that by making it absolutely clear why you chose to promote the person you did—because she was the best-qualified candidate.
Recent case: Shellee Hall worked for a recreational vehicle manufacturer as a quality-control inspector and was responsible for spotting defects while keeping the production line going. About the time she was seeking a promotion to auditor, she alleged that she and a co-worker had been sexually harassed.
When a man got the promotion, she cried retaliation and sued. But the company could easily justify why it chose the man over Hall—and had carefully documented those reasons. For example, managers said the man was better at and understood that as an auditor, he had to balance production needs with quality needs. Those were characteristics Hall lacked, according to her supervisors.
Hall couldn’t show she was clearly better qualified and lost the lawsuit. The court noted that timing wasn’t everything in this case: Not everything that follows protected activity (Hall’s harassment complaint) is automatically related to that activity. Employees still have to prove the alleged retaliation somehow related to the protected activity. (Hall v. Forest River, No. 07-2653, 7th Cir., 2008)
- Waiter serves suit implicating female boss; courts are digesting it
- Protecting employment tests from legal challenges
- Understand the legal risks when employees telecommute from another state
- Beware Sec. 1981 lawsuits, which target race bias
- Don't get nicked by grooming policies that have disparate impact on minorities