Employees who want promotions or transfers have to request them using whatever method the employer sets. They can’t just casually express their desire for the job.
Recent case: Carla Hill worked for the U.S. Postal Service and filed several discrimination claims after she developed back problems. She claimed she casually expressed her desire to be transferred to a less physically taxing opening as a desk clerk.
When the post office filled three such openings with other candidates, Hill sued, claiming she had not been offered the jobs in retaliation for her discrimination claims.
But the post office explained that the proper transfer procedure was to write a letter to one’s supervisor requesting the job. Hill had not done that, while the three others had. Hill argued that the rule wasn’t written, so it must not exist.
The court dismissed her retaliation claim, reasoning that when an employer creates a process, employees have to follow it. While it might have been better for the rule to be written, the court was satisfied the rule did exist and Hill didn’t use it. No one expects employers to guess who might be interested in a position based on casual conversations. (Hill v. Potter, No. 07-CV-6835, SD IL, 2009)
Final note: Your best bet is to provide clear and explicit instructions for how to apply for open positions—in writing. Then publicize the process and regularly remind employees about it.
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