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Promotions: Federal

Author: Susan Tahernia


  • Promotion decisions typically take into account a number of factors, including: an employer's needs; an employee's previous employment record, including the employee's job performance; the employee's potential for assuming greater responsibility; the employee's level of experience; and the qualifications and requirements of the position. See The Promotion Process.
  • Job descriptions and employer policies and procedures guide promotion decisions. Employers should consult and follow each of these written policies and procedures, and then apply them uniformly. See The Promotion Process.
  • In the case of a unionized employer, no promotion decision should be made without referring to the applicable collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The CBA may contain a section pertaining to promotions, the eligibility criteria for certain job classifications and the procedure for selection. See The Promotion Process and Labor Environments.
  • Employers should use caution when relying on past performance for making promotion decisions. A wise employer scrutinizes performance appraisals for supervisor bias, complaint history and whether 360 performance evaluations were relied upon in making the promotion decision. See The Promotion Process and Using Past Performance Appraisals in Promotion Decisions.
  • Qualification standards, employment tests or other selection criteria should not be used unless shown to be related to the position in question and consistent with business necessity. See Disparate-Impact Discrimination and Testing and Assessments.
  • Background screening imposes additional responsibilities. While some form of screening is recommended, the background investigation may trigger rights and obligations under the Fair Credit Reporting Act. Employers must exercise caution in the use of criminal conviction or other information (for example, filing for bankruptcy) in selection decisions. Additionally, drug testing introduces a whole new set of issues that requires special consideration. See The Promotion Process and Screening Candidates for Promotion.
  • Employers should be aware of their obligation to provide a reasonable accommodation in the administration of promotion tests. See Testing. Moreover, selection criteria that are related to an essential function of the job may not be used to exclude an individual with a disability if that individual could satisfy the criteria with the provision of a reasonable accommodation. See Promotion Discrimination.
  • Review all promotion decisions for legitimacy. Examine compensation decisions in order to identify and correct potential compensation discrimination. Document selection decisions and maintain records in accordance with recordkeeping laws and regulations. See The Promotion Process.
  • Government contractors must comply with regulations that apply to contracts with federal agencies. See Special Considerations for Government Contractors.
  • Minimize discrimination and retaliation liability by ensuring proper training of supervisors. SeePromotions to Management Positions.
  • Follow employer best practices when promoting employees. See Best Practices in Promotions.