Understanding Promotion Discrimination

Most of us start working for an employer with the explicit or implicit promise that there will be opportunities for advancement. It is easier to start at the bottom if you believe that you could potentially work your way to the top.

But what if, despite years of hard work and loyalty, you repeatedly get passed over for promotions? What if you see less-qualified junior employees climbing the corporate ladder while you stay in place?

Promotion discrimination is a problem that is often observed but less often confronted. On one hand, your employer's actions may be illegal and unethical. On the other hand, speaking up could threaten the job you currently hold. What should you do?

Building A Case

Employees should be promoted because of merit — because they have the education, qualifications, training, and experience to do the job. The employer who passes over employees for promotion because of gender, age, race, or similar reason violates the law.

The problem for the passed-over employee is proving the case. Because employers consider many factors and don't need to be transparent about reasons for promoting certain employees over others, it is not always easy to prove that discrimination is occurring. In addition, it's not enough for you to prove you were better qualified for the promotion; you also have to prove that the employer's promotion decision was the result of illegal discrimination.

How to do this? Sometimes, the employer inadvertently admits the discrimination:

  • Example: "We need young blood in that job," a comment that helps prove an age discrimination case.
  • Example: "That job requires a tough, strong leader," a comment that might help prove sex discrimination (and may even indicate other incidents of sexual harassment).

Such admissions from the employer are rare. In most cases, we look at other promotions within the company to detect a larger pattern. For instance:

  • Data might show that the company promotes men far more often than women, despite roughly equal numbers of male and female employees.
  • There are disproportionately few minority employees in leadership or executive roles.
  • The last several employees who were promoted over you had less experience and fewer credentials, but were all in their 30s, whereas you are in your 50s.

This evidence can produce an inference that the real reason for the promotion decision was illegal discrimination. The employer then will have to explain why the other person was promoted, and the case may turn on whether the reasons the employer offers are true and believable.

Contact EllisonLegal Today For A Free And Confidential Phone Consultation

Until you are reasonably sure that you have a good claim, you do not want to jeopardize your job. I've been helping Michigan clients for nearly 35 years. Contact me for advice, guidance and representation in your promotion discrimination matter. Call 734-887-6534, or send me an email.