Finding out you are eligible for a promotion can be pretty exciting. You may spend weeks or even months dreaming about the higher salary and additional freedom the new position offers. So it's only natural that you're a bit bent out of shape when someone else earns that promotion -- and you're left in your current position. You'll be even more disheartened if you feel that the reason you weren't promoted was based on discrimination.
If you were truly passed over for a promotion for discriminatory reasons, then it's important to file a lawsuit against your employer. Not only will this ensure you're given the compensation you are due, but it will also help set a precedent and deter other employers from using discriminatory practices in the future. The problem is, many people who visit lawyers hoping to file a discrimination case don't actually have a great case after all. So, before you file for discrimination, ask yourself these questions.
Are you a member of a protected class?
While it may seem like it would be wrong for an employer not to hire you because they did not like your shoes or the way your voice sounds, failure to promote you for these reasons is not legally considered discrimination. In order for an employer's actions to legally be considered discrimination, they must have been committed against you because you're a member of a protected class. Under Federal Law, protected classes are variations in:
- Race or skin color
- Religious beliefs
- Nationality or ancestry
- Mental or physical disability
- Veteran status or military involvement
If you don't feel that you were discriminated against because of one of these characteristics, you probably don't actually have a case.
Were you more qualified for the position than the employee who was promoted?
If the employer ultimately awarded the promotion to someone else because they were more qualified, then you don't have a good discrimination case. On the other hand, if you were passed by even though you were more qualified than the person they hired, this could mean you have a case. Keep in mind that you may be asked to provide evidence that you were more qualified than the employee who was actually promoted. This evidence may include previous work evaluations, your resume, references from former employers, and any diplomas or certificates you earned in school.
Were you otherwise promoted or given a raise?
If you were turned down for one promotion but given a different one, you may have a harder time making a strong discrimination case. This is not to say you definitely don't have a case, but be prepared for an uphill battle if you choose to sue your employer in this situation. The defense will argue that, since you were ultimately promoted anyways, the company could not possibly have a bias or disdain for the protected class you're a part of.
Is the employee who was promoted outside the protected class that you're a part of?
If the employee who was promoted is a member of the same protected class you feel you were discriminated against for belonging to, you don't really have a case. For instance, if you are claiming that you were not promoted because you are female, but the employee who was promoted is also female, you can't really argue that you were discriminated against on the basis of gender. You could argue that you were discriminated against on a basis of race (if the promoted employee is of a different race) or religion (if they're a different religion), but not on the basis of gender.
Filing a discrimination case is extremely time-consuming and emotional. If you're still not sure whether you have a strong case, make an appointment with a discrimination attorney, such as those at Law Office of Faye Riva Cohen, P.C.. They can discuss your situation and let you know what your best approach is.