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Set clear guidance for promotion applications

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in HR Management,Human Resources

Employers can get in big trouble if they try to manipulate promotions so only certain individuals apply. That can happen when promotion opportunities aren’t listed or only a select few learn about them. The legal risk: Even employees who don’t formally apply can sue.

Your best bet is to tell employees exactly where promotions and other job openings are posted and how to apply. That way, only those who actually apply can sue.

Recent case: Loraine was a Wal-mart inventory control specialist. She alleged that she learned about an inventory control specialist manager position and applied for it by speaking to the lead HR and payroll staffer. She claimed that Walmart maintained records documenting job openings and employee interest in those openings and that employees were never told to formally apply. A man was ultimately hired for the position.

Loraine sued, alleging she had been turned down on account of her sex. Walmart tried to argue she hadn’t actually applied.

However, the court let Loraine’s lawsuit continue, based on her claim that Walmart had an informal system that tracked interest. Therefore, the court said, her oral expression of interest was enough to show she applied for the promotion. (Catlin v. Wal-Mart, No. 15-04, DC MN, 2015)

Advice: Address how to apply for promotions in your employee handbook. Track every promotion opportunity, making sure it is properly publicized. Track every application, from submission to final decision.

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