Employers should improve their hiring and promotion systems if they discover problems that can be fixed. Doing so after an employee has filed a discrimination complaint isn’t tantamount to admitting guilt.
Recent case: William, who is Hispanic, sued the police department where he worked, alleging a discriminatory promotion process. He claimed the department had eliminated a position he would have filed and that the reason was age, race and national origin discrimination. A jury sided with William and awarded him damages.
Meanwhile, William applied for another position, but scored 70, too low to be considered. The department also interviewed only the top seven candidates and William didn’t make that cutoff either.
He sued again, claiming the process was flawed and that he should have been awarded more points. By the time the suit was underway, the department had overhauled its promotion process to improve it.
William argued that the changes to the promotion system proved the department had discriminated against him.
The court disagreed. It said the changes resulted from the department’s systemic concerns about the process and weren’t an admission of discrimination against William, who hadn’t met the minimum score or cutoff for number of candidates to be interviewed. The case was dismissed. (Hernandez v. Metropolitan Transit, No. 16-20135, 5th Cir., 2016)
Final note: Don’t be afraid to improve a process. Judges like proactive employers who can admit when they are wrong.
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