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Post promotion openings to cut down on lawsuits

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in Human Resources

Employers that rely on informal announcements and word of mouth to promote employees, take note: If a supervisor knows an employee would be interested in such a position and doesn’t let him know it is opening up, a court may allow a failure-to-promote lawsuit even if the employee never applied.

That’s why the best and safest practice is to post all jobs and let employees know exactly where the job opportunities will appear and when and how to apply. If an employee then doesn’t apply using the company’s system, he can’t come back and say his supervisor should have known he was interested.

Recent case: Jack Koppinger, who is white, worked for Walmart stocking merchandise. He alleged that he was passed over for a possible promotion in favor of minority employees and sued.

Koppinger argued that he had frequently told his supervisor he was interested in promotional opportunities. He told the court he thought the supervisor should have automatically considered him for the open spot. But Walmart argued it had a written policy of posting open positions. The policy, the retailer had explained to all employees, specified exactly how to apply for openings. In addition, each posting included instructions and deadlines.

Walmart said it had no record of Koppinger applying for the position and therefore couldn’t have denied him the promotion
on account of his race. The court agreed.

It said the situation would be different if the company didn’t post openings or explain how to apply. Then supervisors would have an obligation to inform an employee of promotion opportunities if the employee had expressed interest in being promoted. (Koppinger v. Wal-Mart, No. 3:07-CV-458, ND FL, 2009)

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