Passed Over for a Promotion: Is It Discrimination?

Passed Over for a Promotion Is It Discrimination

Discrimination is a possible explanation if your employer passed you over for a promotion you believe you earned. Consider the possibility that your employer discriminated against you, and that you may recover compensation for resulting harm.

If you know or suspect that discrimination played a role in your loss of a promotion, hire an San Diego discrimination attorney. A lawyer will investigate potential discrimination, document resulting harm, and fight for the financial recovery you deserve.

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Who Can Experience Discrimination During the Promotion Process?

Who Can Experience Discrimination During the Promotion Process

Virtually anyone can face discrimination in the promotion process, as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and other discrimination-specific legislation prohibit unfair promotion practices based on:

It does not matter if you are black or white, young or older, wear a certain hairstyle, or hold certain beliefs. No employer can discriminate against you or withhold a promotion for any discriminatory reason.

Discrimination Is Against the Law (But It Happens)

The ADA and Civil Rights Act are not the only legislation prohibiting discrimination in the workplace. The Equal Pay Act of 1963, Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, and other laws explicitly prohibit discriminatory hiring and promotion practices. Yet, discrimination still happens.

An employer may break the law in failing to promote you because:

  • They do not know the law regarding discrimination
  • They willfully choose to break the law regarding discrimination
  • They are not aware of their own discriminatory behaviors

Though there are explanations for why an employer might engage in discriminatory promotion practices, there are no excuses. You have undoubtedly suffered harm if you experienced employment discrimination. An attorney will secure the justice you deserve.

Signs That You May Have Suffered Discrimination Against

When a lawyer seeks to prove discrimination in the workplace, they generally look for several hallmarks, including:

  • You have any characteristic that can be grounds for discrimination: Virtually every employee has some characteristic that can be the impetus for discrimination. One’s race, age, religion, gender, viewpoints, or appearance can all potentially contribute to an employer’s discriminatory behavior. 
  • Someone less qualified than you received a promotion: Discrimination is most obvious when someone less qualified than another receives a promotion. The person who received the promotion may have less experience, fewer accomplishments, and less tangible benefit to the company. Your lawyer will seek objective metrics that indicate you were more qualified than the person who received the promotion.
  • Someone equally as qualified as you received the promotion: If two people are similarly qualified to receive a promotion, you must ask: Why wasn’t I the one who received the position? Discrimination may have been the difference between you and another similarly qualified individual receiving that promotion.
  • Discrimination is a plausible explanation for your failure to receive a deserved promotion: Your lawyer will evaluate all available information. Based on witness accounts, your account, and objective information, they will determine whether discrimination might explain your lack of a promotion. 
  • Your employer has a history of discrimination: Discrimination does not always happen as a pattern. However, an individual’s history of discrimination against employees (or others, like job applicants) may be relevant to your case.

Your attorney will evaluate all relevant information, identify any reason you may have experienced discrimination, and build the case for your financial recovery.

You may already know that discrimination has happened, or you may only suspect it. Your attorney will determine for certain if you are the victim of discriminatory promotion practices.

How Do I Remedy Being Passed Over Due to Discrimination?

How Do I Remedy Being Passed Over Due to Discrimination

You can hire a labor and employment attorney to file a discrimination complaint (and possibly a lawsuit) on your behalf. They may need to file the complaint with federal and state authorities. They may also need to file your lawsuit before any statute of limitations for your case expires.

You may contact a lawyer about a workplace discrimination complaint because:

  • You have suffered financial losses because you were not promoted
  • You want to hold your employer accountable for their discriminatory practices
  • You have suffered psychologically and emotionally because of the fact you were discriminated against
  • Your quality of life has suffered due to the financial and non-economic effects of discrimination
  • You have lost professional progress and status because you were not promoted (as you should have been)

There are many good reasons to seek justice for any discrimination you have experienced. If you were discriminated against in other aspects of your employment, an attorney can also seek fair compensation for these instances.

Will I Be Retaliated Against If I Pursue a Discrimination Complaint?

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) prohibits “punishing job applicants or employees for asserting their rights to be free from employment discrimination including harassment.”


  • Have a legally protected right to file a discrimination complaint or lawsuit
  • Should not receive any retaliation from current or future employers (or would-be employers) based on your filing of a discrimination complaint or lawsuit, as this will be illegal
  • Can take further legal action if you are retaliated against because you chose to seek justice for discrimination

Your attorney will seek fair compensation for any harm caused by discrimination or retaliation. This should eliminate any hesitations or qualms you have about filing a claim after an instance of discrimination.

Reasons to Hire a Lawyer After Being Passed Over for a Promotion

If you believe you did not receive a promotion due to discrimination, consider hiring an attorney because:

  • Lawyers know the laws governing the workplace: Though the statutes against discrimination are clear, those statutes are also complex. An experienced labor and employment attorney will know these laws and apply them appropriately to your case. 
  • Attorneys have the time and energy to lead your lawsuit: Your complaint and lawsuit will require substantial time and effort. You may still be working and have personal obligations to tend to. Your attorney will put in the time and effort necessary to build a compelling case.
  • An attorney will protect you from retaliation: When you hire a lawyer, you signal to your employer that you are serious about getting justice. Your employer may realize that if they retaliate, your attorney will seek further compensation for retaliatory actions.
  • A lawyer will shield you from reliving a potentially traumatic experience: Everyone deals with discrimination differently, but most find it unpleasant at the very least. At worst, you may find it traumatic to relive the details of being victimized by discrimination. Having a lawyer handle your complaint and lawsuit will spare you further distress.
  • A lawyer can handle the demands of lawsuits and trials: Those who seek justice for discrimination often do so through a lawsuit. Labor and employment attorneys are familiar with the civil justice system, making them qualified to handle any necessary lawsuit and trial.

You may choose to hire an attorney for these and other reasons. If you want to speak with a lawyer or hire them, don’t wait to do so.

When Should I Hire My Attorney?

You should not wait any longer to hire an attorney for your discrimination case. 

Timing is critical in your case because:

  • Your attorney likely needs to gather evidence and document your damages, and certain evidence and documentation may be time-sensitive
  • Your lawyer may face a non-negotiable deadline for filing your complaint and lawsuit
  • Your attorney will protect you from making any mistakes that can jeopardize your case for a financial recovery

You likely also want to move on from the instance of discrimination as soon as you can. By hiring your lawyer right away, you move closer to the resolution you seek.

How a Labor and Employment Attorney Will Seek Justice for You

You should have clear expectations for your employment lawyer, and it’s fine to set those expectations high. Attorneys should properly serve their clients, and your lawyer may support you by:

Finding Convincing Evidence That Discrimination Happened

Your lawyer will obtain any evidence that suggests or proves discrimination happened, which may include:

  • Witnesses from co-workers or anyone else who witnessed discriminatory behavior
  • Expert testimony about why the defendant’s actions qualify as discrimination
  • Employment records indicating why you deserve a promotion (and perhaps why the recipient did not)
  • Documentation of any past allegations of discrimination against the defendant

Attorneys know the evidence that can contribute to the success of discrimination cases.

Documenting Damages Resulting from the Discrimination

Documenting Damages Resulting from the Discrimination

Your attorney will work to prove the economic and non-economic harm you suffered because of discrimination.

Important documentation of your damages may include:

  • Your account of the toll that discrimination has taken on you
  • Financial records and projections showing how much income you lost by losing the promotion
  • Experts’ testimony about the long-term economic harm of not receiving the promotion
  • A mental health expert’s explanation of the distress you’ve experienced due to suffering discrimination

Attorneys evaluate every type of harm their client suffers. Your lawyer will then seek definitive proof of each of those damages.

Establishing the Cost of Your Damages

Discrimination has a cost that is both economic and non-economic. Your legal team will determine the precise financial cost of each of your discrimination-related damages.

Calculating the cost of non-economic damages like pain and suffering can be especially difficult. Attorneys know how to calculate such damages accurately, which is one of the primary benefits of having a lawyer handle your case.

Negotiating a Settlement

Your lawyer’s goal is to obtain a fair financial recovery for the cost of discrimination. They may obtain this recovery through a settlement agreement.

Before they can secure a fair offer, your lawyer will likely need to:

  • Present convincing evidence that you are the victim of discrimination
  • Present convincing documentation of damages resulting from the discriminatory behavior
  • Justify their calculation of your damages

Your lawyer may have to convince unwilling parties to pay you fairly. This is no easy feat, but it’s a task your attorney will be up to.

Representing You at Trial, if Necessary

Some cases of discrimination require a legal trial, such as if:

  • The defendant refuses to accept that their behavior qualifies as discrimination
  • The defendant disputes the nature or cost of your damages
  • Any other circumstances prevent a settlement agreement

Your attorney should prepare your case for trial from the start. If so, they won’t miss a beat when it comes time for court.

What Damages Can Victims of Discrimination Receive Compensation For?

You will help your attorney identify the cost of losing a hard-earned promotion because of discrimination. Your attorney will speak with you about your experience, and you can help them understand the nature of your pain and suffering.

Your lawyer will also conduct their own investigation and consult experts and may find that your recoverable damages include:

  • Pain and suffering: Discrimination can have substantial negative effects on the victim. You may lose trust, experience emotional and psychological distress, endure depression, and face other forms of pain and suffering due to the defendant’s discrimination against you.
  • Lost earnings: Failing to receive a promotion likely translated into lost earnings. Your attorney will evaluate how much the loss of earnings has cost you (and will cost you going forward).
  • Loss of opportunity: Being promoted may have unlocked professional opportunities. Your attorney will work with experts to determine the long-term cost discrimination had on you.

Identifying the toll of workplace discrimination is a complex process. Let an experienced lawyer handle this process, as it is imperative that you get it right.

How Do I Choose an Employment Lawyer to Get Justice for Discrimination?

Alreen Haeggquist, San Diego Employment Law Attorney
Discrimination Attorney, Alreen Haeggquist

You should seek an employment attorney who focuses on employment and labor disputes. Consider their experience, reputation among former clients, and case results.

Do not wait to find and hire the right employment law lawyers for your case. Deadlines may loom, so let your lawyer start fighting for you today.



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