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Employment Law Blog
James Tarquin, P.A
As part of our commitment to assist and educate employees in fighting back against the abusive employment practices of employers, we offer a broad range of information about employment law issues in our employment blog

Is An Employer’s Violation Of Its Own Promotion Policies Evidence Of A Discriminatory Failure To Promote?

Door that reads Promotion

Federal employment discrimination laws make it an unlawful employment practice for an employer to fail or refuse to promote an employee on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, age, or disability.  Having extensive experience representing employees discriminatorily denied promotion, our Citrus County, Florida employment discrimination attorneys have learned that employers often violate their own policies in the promotion process.  In doing so, employers frequently promote an employee who was unqualified by their own criteria over an employee who was so qualified or otherwise disadvantage an employee qualified for promotion.  The decision by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in Allison v. Washington Metro. Area Transit Auth., 2018 WL 466648 (D. D.C. Jan. 18, 2018) illustrates that evidence showing that an employer bent or broke its own rules in the promotion process can be used to establish the employer’s discriminatory motive in failing to promote the employee claiming a discriminatory failure to promote.

Employee Claims Discriminatorily Denied Promotion

In that case, Jerry Allison (Allison), an African-American man, brought a discriminatory failure to promote claim against his former employer, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA).  Allison asserted that WMATA failed to promote him to the position of Warehouse Manager because of his race in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII).

Allison claimed that the incoming Director of Storerooms and Material Logistics, a white woman named Wasiak, was motivated by racial bias when she made the decision to select a white employee named St. John for the Warehouse Manger position instead of him.  In support of his race discrimination claim, Allison maintained that he was more qualified for the position than St. John.  Allison pointed out that although St. John had extensive experience in logistics and a bachelor’s degree, he had extensive experience in the specific field of warehouse management for transit authorities, including serving as WMATA’s acting Warehouse Manager.  Allison further contended that Wasiak’s failure to follow WMATA’s policies in the promotion process was evidence of her discriminatory motive. 

In support of its refusal to promote him, WMATA pointed to Allison’s deficient performance during the first and second round of interviews for the position.  After the first round of interviews, Allison’s supervisor told him, “Jerry, that wasn’t your best interview.”  After the second round of interviews, Allison scored the lowest of the three candidates.  Based on this evidence, WMATA filed a motion with the trial court seeking dismissal of Allison’s discriminatory failure to promote claim.  In doing so, WMATA was asking the trial court to find that Allison’s discriminatory failure to promote claim failed as a matter of law.   The trial court denied WMATA’s motion for dismissal and ruled that Allison’s discriminatory failure to promote claim must be resolved by a jury.

Employer Violates Its Own Policy In Promotion Process

  In denying WMATA’s motion for dismissal, the trial court found that a jury could find that Allison was denied promotion on the basis of his race “from the optics of the hiring process.”  The trial court pointed out that the two African-American members of the hiring panel prepared and signed Allison’s selection letter for the Warehouse Manager position, while the panel’s only white member did not sign Allison’s selection letter even though Allison was then the highest-raking interviewee.  Instead of selecting Allison for the Warehouse Manager position at that point in time, Wasiak waited until one of the African-American members of the hiring panel retired, whereupon she became the hiring manager and opened the interview process to outside candidates.  After interviewing these candidates with a two-member panel, in violation of WMATA’s policy which required consistent panels, Wasiak ultimately selected St. John for the position.   Along with evidence showing that Wasiak violated WMATA’s own policy in the promotion process, the trial court also found Allison’s discriminatory failure to promote claim was supported by evidence that another WMATA had filed race, religion, age, and national origin discrimination claims against Wasiak. 

Free Consultation With Citrus County Discrimination Lawyers   

Based in Ocala, Florida and representing employees throughout Central Florida, we have almost twenty years of experience fighting for employees who have been the victims of employment discrimination.  If you have been discriminated against in the workplace or discriminatorily denied a promotion, please contact our office for a free consultation with our Citrus County, Florida employment discrimination attorneys.  Our employee rights law firm takes employment discrimination cases on a contingency fee basis.  This means that there are no attorney’s fees incurred unless there is a recovery and our attorney’s fees come solely from the monetary award that you recover. 

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