Employers with a good employee handbook that explicitly sets out the rules for handling hiring, promotions and raises have a huge advantage if there’s ever a complaint that those processes have been unfairly applied. Clearly written policies are one great way to counter the “he told me” claims that so often arise when an employee doesn’t get the job or promotion she wanted.
Recent case: Fairy Williams, who is black, got a temporary food service supervisor position with a state agency. She was never classified as a permanent employee. When the agency posted the position, interested applicants took a qualifying exam. The agency’s rules specified that anyone who was a permanent employee and had held the position before didn’t have to take the test.
Williams came in eighth on the test and wasn’t hired. A white employee was selected instead.
That’s when Williams sued, alleging race discrimination. She also claimed she had been told that she was a permanent employee and therefore shouldn’t have had to take the test. She contended that without the test, she would have placed near the top of the list.
The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals rejected her claims. It concluded that the employer had clear rules about who was or wasn’t a permanent employee.
The court said even if Williams had been told she was permanent, the written rules governed. (Williams, et al., v. New Jersey Trenton Psychiatric Hospital, No. 07-4154, 3rd Cir., 2009)
- No employee handbook or written policy? Good luck proving you take harassment seriously
- Don't let manual become a contract—Make sure employees sign 'At-Will' notice
- Document solid reasons for firing complainer
- Beware firing ill employee after FMLA expires
- Family-Responsibility discrimination: A growing trend