Branford Dodoo, an African-American, was continually passed over for advancement at his place of employment.
In one case, a promotion went to a younger white male who had been with Seagate Technologies only two months, a move that required special approval to circumvent the company's policy against promotions in a worker's first year.
When the company finally did offer Dodoo a promotion, it withdrew the offer months later. The company said a downturn in business forced it to freeze all hiring, but only that one new position was affected by the freeze.
Dodoo sued for age and race discrimination and won. The company had argued that by not filling the position, it couldn't be accused of a failure to promote. But the court, calling this reasoning "wrongheaded," noted that Seagate promoted six other employees in the same department at the same time of this "so-called ?hiring freeze." (Dodoo v. Seagate Technology Inc., No. 99-6352, 10th Cir., 2000)
Advice: Don't try to cloak discriminatory action under fancy terms like hiring freezes, rifs and business slowdowns. When bad news falls disproportionately harder on employees in protected classes (women, minorities, disabled people, etc.), you can get slapped with a lawsuit.
Also, don't deviate from your policies, especially if you're in human resources. In this case, a manager in Seagate's HR department suggested Dodoo apply for posted promotions. But that same manager signed off on two hiring decisions that ran counter to the company's written policies, something that the jury noted with suspicion.