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  • Writer's pictureDavid Manes

Prove Job Promotion Discrimination

Failure to promote employees can be a symptom of workplace discrimination. Employees who are overlooked for promotions again and again despite the unspoken pattern of promotion may be facing employment discrimination. Discrimination that causes an employee to miss out on a promotion is against the law.

The key to having a claim of workplace discrimination is being a part of a legally protected class. After all, employment law outlines who is considered a legally protected class.

Prove Job Promotion Discrimination

When an employee is overlooked for promotion while white or male coworkers continue to be promoted, it’s possible that the employee has hit a glass ceiling. Failure to promote an employee due to their legally protected class is illegal. To prove your discrimination claim, you need to do a few things.

Always start with filing a complaint through your company, either by notifying your supervisor or speaking with Human Resources. Follow up any conversations with an email, summarizing the meeting. This email will be time stamped.

1. Show you’re a member of a protected class.

2. Present your qualifications and promotion application.

3. After rejection, show who gets the job, whether less qualified or not a protected class.

4. Your employer must give reason for not promoting you.

When your employer gives a reason for not promoting you, it will sound squeaky clean. That’s the point.

With the help of an employment lawyer, you’ll want to take steps to prove that their given reason is actually a false. Lawyers will call this claimed reason a “pretext for discrimination.” Since every legal system handles case differently, it’s important to build your case wisely.

How To Recognize Discrimination

Possible Evidence

  1. Comparison of qualifications – are your qualifications better than the person chosen?

  2. Similarly situated employees – were your coworkers treated better than you based on protected class?

  3. Inconsistent reasons – does your employer’s reasons differ for not promoting you?

  4. Company procedure – was this normal company procedure?

What Happens if I win a Promotion Discrimination Case?

Employees who suffer discrimination and win their lawsuit receive something called “remedies” or “damages” from the court. These terms refer to the often-monetary reimbursement that an employee receives for the suffering they’ve endured. What you receive depends on the court and the situation you lived through. A few options are listed below, but the list is not exhaustive.

Promotion Discrimination Remedies

  1. Back Pay

  2. Compensatory Damages

  3. Punitive Damages

  4. Attorney Fees and other Legal Costs

What Your Employer Should Have in Place

To help combat employment discrimination in the workplace, employers should take certain steps to create a procedure to make promotions equally distributed. These policies should be worded specifically. If your employer doesn’t have these policies and procedures in place, you may face promotion discrimination.

A Promotion Policy

Business should have a standard procedure for dealing with promotions. This also keeps things consistent. The policy should also include keeping the process well documented.

Promotion Criteria

  1. Neutral selection process

  2. Specific interview procedures

  3. Protections for disparate impact for protected classes

  4. Internal announcement before public announcement of promotions

  5. Outline steps for internal applications

  6. EEOC compliance

  7. Interview and rejection documentation

Trained Management Level Employees

Another component to ensuring promotions are awarded appropriately is to train those who determine promotions. Managers and decision makers should be aware of the legal requirements as well. Without this information, they could give an employee reason to sue for promotion discrimination.

Eligibility Standards

Employers should develop a clear system for determining an employee’s qualifications for a role. The appraisal process should be consistent and fair so that all employees understand. Employer should also specify performance requirements as well as length of time required for employment before promotion.

Job Description

When an employer writes a job description, the text should describe the role and not the person that the employer wants to promote. Duties and qualifications should be outlined, highlighting desired education and experience. The job description should also include information about the work conditions and physical demands.

Once again, if your employer doesn’t have any of the above in place and you believe you’ve experienced promotion discrimination, you should speak with an employment lawyer to determine next steps. Workplace discrimination of protected classes is illegal. Therefore, seek your rights under the law.

Chat with an employment attorney: (412) 626-5626 or

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