When it comes to promoting employees, try to make sure everyone has a fair shot at opportunities. And if you ever bend the rules, realize that you may end up having that flexibility used against you if you don’t do the same for others.
Recent case: Debra sued SEPTA, the Philadelphia transit agency, over pay issues and settled for $90,000. Later, she applied for a promotion. The job she wanted required a particular certification. She didn’t have it yet, but was working to earn it. Debra wasn’t interviewed. Instead, six men who had the certification were interviewed and one was selected.
Debra sued again, this time for retaliation and sex discrimination. The reason: She learned that earlier, another man who lacked the same certification had interviewed for a promotion and argued that he would be able to earn it soon. He ultimately got the promotion after other, certified candidates turned it down.
Debra argued that the exception SEPTA made for the male worker demonstrated that she had been discriminated against when she had not been allowed to interview because she lacked the certification.
The court agreed she could use the different treatment she received as evidence of discrimination at trial. (Gardner-Lozada v. SEPTA, No. 13-2755, ED PA, 2015)
Final note: SEPTA may be able to persuade a jury that it hired the best qualified applicant. However, had it not made an exception in one case, it wouldn’t now be facing an expensive trial and potential liability.
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