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Give all employees a shot at advancement

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

If some of your managers and supervisors steer career and business opportunities to favored subordinates and keep others from finding out about them, watch out. If those missed opportunities wind up depriving employees of potential financial rewards, you may have an adverse employment action on your hands—and that could lead to discrimination lawsuits.

Avoid this problem with a comprehensive program that educates all employees about training, promotion, sales and other opportunities. That way, no boss can hoard the best for his favorites.

Recent case: Subhash Chaudhry, who is of Indian descent, worked as a quality-control inspector in one of several Nucor Steel divisions that processes rolled steel. In June 2003, inspectors in other divisions received pay raises; Chaudhry was passed over.

Chaudhry sued, alleging national-origin and race discrimination. After he filed the lawsuit, the U.S. Supreme Court decided the Ledbetter case, which said employees have to file their pay disparity lawsuits within 300 days of the discriminatory pay decision. Chaudhry didn’t meet that deadline, having relied on the idea that each paycheck represented a separate violation. In light of Ledbetter, the trial court tossed out his case.

The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed part of the decision. It noted that Chaudhry had also claimed he was denied opportunities to go on sales trips, which in turn meant that every year he was denied a separate raise based on the number of sales trips he had taken. The court concluded that Chaudhry’s supervisors had withheld from him information about sales trip opportunities.

Because of that, Chaudhry could claim he had suffered an adverse employment action, and could sue for discrimination based on the last time he was denied a raise. That meant he hadn’t missed the filing deadline after all, at least for the pay raises based on sales trips. He will get his day in court. (Chaudhry v. Nucor, No. 07-3729, 7th Cir., 2008)

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