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Workplace Advice: Passed Over

Workplace Advice: Passed Over

Passed Over is a cross-post from Working America’s Dear David workplace advice column. David knows you deserve to be treated fairly on the job and he’s available to answer your questions, whether it is co-workers making off-handed comments that you should retire or you feel like your job's long hours are causing stress.


I have been working for a company for about two years. The company recently acquired another company. There were many layoffs as the companies merged. I was moved over to another department. A director-level position was created in this new department and someone was given the promotion. The rest of us never knew about the position and certainly didn't have a chance to apply for it. The person receiving the promotion has a lot less experience and qualifications for the job. When I confronted his boss about this, he minimized the importance of the role. Is it legal to promote someone into a new position without allowing others to apply, especially if the person who was promoted is less qualified?

—Pamela, Massachusetts


 When you have some time for a bit of light entertainment—here’s art imitating life. I know it’s not funny in real life, but sometimes it helps to step back and laugh at the absurd.

A lot of workplace issues present as much of an organizing question as they do a legal one. Other than having to comply with anti-discrimination laws, private employers are generally free to promote and transfer employees as they choose, regardless of whether they are being fair to their employees. So if there isn’t a discrimination issue (which can be difficult to prove), you could be left to the whim and mercy of your employer. Unless you organize….

Any limitations on the employer’s decision making would come from contracts, not from laws. Many collective bargaining agreements contain seniority rights that require the employer to respect seniority when laying off, transferring or promoting employees. So, if you don’t have a union at your workplace, this is one of probably many reasons that you and your co-workers may decide to organize one.

Submit your own question to David.

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