Promotion Discrimination in the Workplace

Basing promotion decisions on stereotypes about protected classes is unlawful.
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It can be difficult to make promotion decisions with multiple candidates for a single slot. A manager may use a variety of criteria, such as availability, experience and education, to decide who is best suited for the job. But sometimes managers base their decisions on factors that cannot be lawfully considered, which is an illegal practice called promotion discrimination.

Defining Promotion Discrimination

    Federal laws, such as the Civil Rights Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act, forbid decision making based on characteristics such as race, sex and disability. Most states also have anti-discrimination laws which are usually similar to federal regulations, but many extend protections to additional groups. For example, Indiana bans discrimination against gun owners and Delaware protects users of legal marijuana.

Examples of Discrimination

    Promotion discrimination comes in many forms and some are not so obvious. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, it is discriminatory if a position is advertised in a way that discourages people on an illegal basis, such as religion or pregnancy. It is also discriminatory if all applicants are not informed of the same requirements or some are assessed by more stringent standards due to stereotypes about their capabilities.

Basis for a Claim

    For a viable promotion discrimination claim, a person must be a member of a protected group, and she should have reason to believe she was not promoted on that basis. She also needs to be qualified for the position in question. Generally, a complaint is only viable if the employee applied for the position and wasn't promoted. But there may be some exceptions, such as an instance in which only men or members of a certain ethnicity were made aware of advancement opportunities so that others could not apply for the position.

Filing Complaints

    Employees who believe they've experienced promotion discrimination can file claims with the EEOC or with state authorities. In Maryland, for example, the Maryland Commission on Human Relations handles promotion discrimination allegations. But, don't wait too long. In Maryland, people must file a claim within six months of the discriminatory event or MCHR will deem it invalid. The EEOC requires claims be made within 180 days if the incident is only a matter of federal law or within 300 days if it is also covered by state anti-discrimination laws.

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