HR Support on Promoting Employees

Editor's Note: Promote employees to reward performance, while complying with applicable laws.

Marta MoakleyOverview: Employers should adopt a fair employee compensation and promotion strategy in order to enhance productivity within the workplace. Promotion decisions should be scrutinized for supervisor bias, complaint history and overall fairness. Failing to promote an employee based on race, gender or disability considerations may lead to a decline of employee engagement and morale, as well as a costly lawsuit. However, even promotion practices that appear fair can be discriminatory if they have a disparate impact on protected groups.

When making promotion decisions, employers should pay particular attention to employees being promoted to supervisory or management positions. These newly-promoted supervisors and managers may need additional training in a number of legal areas, as well as in internal policies and procedures. Moreover, in a unionized environment, such newly-promoted employees may require additional information regarding their changing rights and responsibilities under the applicable collective bargaining agreement.

Trends: In a down economy, cash-strapped employers may want to reward employees with alternatives to a promotion, such as a loftier title or other compensation. However, employers should beware of engaging in "in name only" promotions, which may pose greater liability risks regarding federal and state pay parity requirements. In addition, federal contractors should be mindful of increased audit activity by the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) in the area of promotions, especially in enforcement initiatives targeting parity for veterans and employees with disabilities.

Author: Marta Moakley, JD, Legal Editor

New and Updated

  • Promotions: Federal

    Employment Law Manual

    This section helps HR professionals understand best practices with respect to employee promotions, and analyzes federal laws that may affect promotion practices.

  • Promote an Employee


  • Promoting Employees

    Best Practice Manual

    This section of the XpertHR best practice manual discusses the steps that employers can take to advance business aims by following good practice when promoting employees. It covers promoting employees through internal recruitment for a vacant role, along with developing employees to motivate them where no obvious vacancy exists.

  • Promotion Letter

    Policies and Documents

    This letter may be used to formally notify an employee that he or she has received a promotion.

About This Topic

HR guidance on the legal risks and benefits regarding employee promotions.