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Use promotion panel to ensure one manager’s bias doesn’t taint entire process

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in Human Resources

Sometimes, a supervisor or manager may favor a subordinate for a promotion because he went to the same school, goes to the same church, lives down the street or shares some other relationship that has nothing to do with work.

That doesn’t always mean there’s discrimination going on. But that won’t prevent some employees from suspecting illegal bias led to a promotion. And too often, that means a lawsuit.

Protect your organization by using a promotion panel to score and interview candidates. That way, you can root out any favoritism that could affect the promotions process.

Note: Be sure to retain those assessments and scores.

Recent case: Harold Wilson, who is black and of Native American ancestry, worked as a housekeeping aide and wanted a promotion. Wilson was one of two candidates interviewed by a promotion panel of three supervisors. Wilson lost the promotion because his score was lower than the other candidate’s.

He sued, alleging he had been discriminated against and that one of the panel members was friendly with the other candidate since the two lived in the same area.

But the employer was able to show the court that each panel member scored the other candidate higher, not just the supposed friend. Since Wilson didn’t have any other evidence, he lost the case. (Wilson v. Nicholson, No. 07-CV-4742, ND IL, 2009)

Final note: The interview notes belong with HR, not in private files.

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