Fair Promotion Practices Justify Promoting The Most Qualified

Is Promoting a New Employee Fair, Legal, and Good for Employee Morale?

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Many employees work in the hopes that one day they will be recognized for their efforts with promotion, an increase in pay, and different or more responsibilities. This is a motivator for many employees that have been with a firm for some time.

Occasionally, employers promote employees who have spent less time in an organization than others. This causes many problems for employees that have been working in an organization for some time. The newer, newly promoted employee will likely be on the receiving end of mistrust and insubordination from employees they worked beside previously.

There is nothing wrong with promoting newer employees, as long as a few considerations are taken. The work environment should be a fair one. You might think about creating minimum time requirement in positions before moving up or into new positions, or maybe creating a high performer pipeline.

Companies Should Create a Fair Environment

It is not illegal to promote a newer employee over someone who has been retained for longer. However, it may be viewed as an unfair business practice by employees who have invested more time in a company. You may want to take some steps to ensure you have created a fair system for promoting employees.

Your employee handbook should have a section regarding promotion considerations, seniority, and performance needed to be considered for promotion. Take care in the wording of your handbook, as it can legally be as binding as a contract unless it specifically states that it is not a contract.

If you don't have an employee handbook, you might consider having published job descriptions with requirements for employees to strive for. Even with a handbook, this could be beneficial. When used with a job board for posting job openings to employees first, you could initiate a decent performance boost as employees strive for promotions.

Take measures to ensure you have a fair performance evaluation system, with fair rewards for employees that are consistently performing above average. For promotions, ensure that applicants are screened for positions in a consistent manner.

In 2018, the EEOC initiated a lawsuit against a motorcycle dealership (who settled afterward) for requiring a female employee to attend a mentorship program so that she could be promoted, while not requiring it for the male employees.

A fair environment requires the same measures for every employee regardless of race, religion, or gender. Published and enforced promotion guidelines or criteria could have helped the motorcycle dealer avoid legal action against them.

You 'll need to ensure that when you are filling vacancies, you are following guidelines published by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Minimum Times in Positions

Companies often have a minimum length of time required to work in a position before you can receive a promotion or transfer. This practice ensures that your newest employees, who tend to come in with a freshly opened can of motivation, will have settled down into their normal performance levels.

As newer employees settle in, management has a longer amount of time to evaluate their newest members whose initial motivation usually tapers off somewhat.

You wouldn't apply minimum times for employees hired to fill managerial positions, but consideration for existing employees should be made first before prospecting for new managers.

High Performers

There may be times when a newer employee simply outperforms their more senior peers. You may want to promote them, but how do you communicate that to other employees?

If you have ensured that you are providing a workplace with fair and consistent performance evaluations and promotion criteria, you shouldn't have to. Your employees should know where they stand and what they need to work on to meet higher level job requirements.

If longer term employees fail to meet the requirements for a promotion after the guidance and mentoring they have received, there is nothing unfair about promoting a newer employee who meets the requirements.


Promoting a newer employee can cause morale issues. However, these issues are usually limited to a few employees who have been striving for promotion but can't seem to achieve it.

You may need to implement other actions for more senior employees who are passed over for promotions if they are still valuable and contributing members of your workforce.


If you are an employee looking for a promotion, much of the onus is on you. If you do feel as if you are treated unfairly for promotions, make sure you are following and meeting established criteria for the positions you desire.

If you believe you meet the criteria for the positions, you may be missing a key piece that your managers are looking for. Talk to your managers and find out if there is something else you could do. There might be some qualifications you could get, or they may not have known you were looking for a promotion.

If you do have everything required, you might be a victim of discrimination. You should first contact the leadership of your organization, or an Equal Employment Opportunity representative if there is one in your company to resolve the matter internally.

If there isn't, or the matter cannot be resolved to your satisfaction within the company you can contact the EEOC and file a charge. According to the EEOC,

"In general, you need to file a charge within 180 calendar days from the day the discrimination took place. The 180 calendar day filing deadline is extended to 300 calendar days if a state or local agency enforces a law that prohibits employment discrimination on the same basis. The rules are slightly different for age discrimination charges."

As you are preparing yourself for promotions, be sure to educate yourself on the job requirements. Be honest with yourself in your abilities and qualifications. Much of the time, employees are passed over for a promotion because they believed they were qualified, but truly are not.

You may need to spend time outside of work, working on the qualities and abilities that will make you more competitive for promotions. Remember, the more you put into something, the more you get out of it.