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Don’t feel obligated to promote from within if better outside candidates are available

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in Human Resources

It makes sense for employers to promote from within. It helps morale and often means the promoted person can hit the ground running.

But sometimes it’s better to choose a candidate from a broader pool of potential employees. That may mean some current employees will be disappointed—and may even sue.

Fortunately, courts aren’t likely to side with an internal candidate just because she already works for an employer. Recently, a federal court affirmed that internal candidates don’t have an automatic leg up and aren’t entitled to preferential promotions.

Recent case: Nukeyda Hicks, a black woman, worked as an assistant manager at a restaurant along the Ohio Turnpike. She began as a shift supervisor and was promoted after four years. Two years later, a general manager position opened and Hicks applied.

Hicks wasn’t promoted. Instead, the company hired a white man with a culinary degree, 15 years’ experience in food service and 12 years’ experience as a manager.

Hicks sued, alleging she was clearly better qualified because she could have begun working immediately. The white man had to undergo a two-month training period as a new employee. Essentially, she argued that she was more immediately qualified, even if overall she was technically less qualified.

The court dismissed the case. It pointed out that if Hicks’ argument prevailed, then every internal candidate for promotion to manager would get the job, regardless of how well qualified any outside candidate was. (Hicks v. SSP America, No. 1:09-CV-1619, ND OH, 2010)

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