A general manager of a large retail store, who is under the supervision of a micro-managing district manager, has difficulty getting employees promoted to vacant positions. In the end, the male employees receive the promotion and the female employee does not. Is there any potential liability to the company for sex discrimination in this situation?
One male employee was recommended for promotion (from sales person to sales manager) by the general manager and it took several months to “convince” the district manager to approve the promotion. A second employee, also male, was recommended for a promotion (sales person to assistant manager) and it took a long time to approve as well. Neither male employee was working in the higher-level job prior to the promotion, so their capability was based soley on the general manager’s opinion/evaluation.
The third promotion is a little different: the employee up for promotion is female and is openly gay. She has been working successfully in the capacity of the vacant position (shipping/receiving clerk) for several months with better organizational skills and work product than the person who left (male). She is not receiving any additional compensation for performing job duties outside of her normal job and pay range. In addition, she also worked in the capacity of a shipping/receiving clerk at her previous job (at a different company) and she received a positive recommendation/reference from them.
The district manager is refusing to allow the promotion, against the recommendation of the general manager. No reason(s) of substance are given. Instead, the rationales are things like: “she isn’t brand right” and “she isn’t aggressive enough.”
And I don’t want to forget to mention that the company headquarters are located in North Carolina and the upper management is all good ole boys.
Dear Wondering –
I am wondering too. Wondering why the general manager has not found another job instead of continuing to work with that feet-dragging dolt of a district manager. Evil Skippy has some career search contacts who the general manager might want to meet. Then again, there might be a perfectly legitimate reason why it is taking a loooooooong time to fill the position under these circumstances. Evil Skippy just can’t think of one.
Evil Skippy also wonders if you had a bad experience in North Carolina. We found it to be a lovely state. Did you know it is where Krispy Kreme Doughnuts was founded? It’s true.
– Evil Skippy
I agree with Evil Skippy that your general manager must be very frustrated to have an experienced employee successfully filling a vacant position – but still not be able to convince upper management to promote the employee. It must be even more frustrating for the employee.
There is no way based just on your letter to gauge the prospects of a discrimination claim. There are a lot of other variables that could be at play. I will say that it looks rather odd to have someone successfully filling the position, yet not selecting that person for promotion because they are not “brand right” or “aggressive enough.” How are they succeeding in the position if they are not “right”?
Phrases such as “not brand right” (whatever that means), “not aggressive” and “not a good fit” are sometimes used to camouflage an illegitimate reason for rejecting an applicant. At other times, such phrases can be lazy summaries of a legitimate reason for not selecting an individual. The key here is to find out what the lazy phrases really mean. The person seeking promotion (or the general manager) should insist that upper management offer specifics rather than clichés. Only then would it be possible to analyze the merits of the situation.
Unless you are actually the person seeking the job, management probably won’t supply you with the specific reasons for not approving the promotion. I know that I would not be pleased if management told my co-workers why I was being passed over. However, it goes too far to say that this decision is “none of your business.” The situation is obviously affecting your work environment since it has caused you to wonder about discrimination. You could (and I would) meet with Human Resources or a trusted manager to express your concerns. Just leave out the part about North Carolina and good ole boys. Stereotyping is stereotyping, and it is not nice or professional.