- A Rutgers professor failed to show that he was denied a promotion based on his vision disability, the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled, upholding a lower court’s ruling for the employer (Mascarenhas v. Rutgers, The State University, No. 19-3137 (3rd Cir. June 22, 2020)).
- The professor had appealed a lower court’s summary judgment in favor of Rutgers, arguing that a reasonable jury could conclude that the employer’s reason for denying him the promotion four times was pretext for discrimination.
- The appeals court, however, said that Rutgers explained that he had not "achieved the Universitywide standard of accomplishment necessary to justify promotion." Namely, he "had not received prizes or awards that would show that he had reached a level of national or international influence justifying the rank." Finding that the professor failed to rebut the employer’s justification with evidence demonstrating discrimination, it declined to revive his claim.
Employers can work to prevent discrimination claims in many ways, experts have previously told HR Dive, including training for managers, solid documentation and, as was relevant in this case, even policy enforcement.
The employer was able to show that other employees also were denied promotions, including one individual without a disability who was denied the same promotion for the same reasons as the plaintiff.
HR can ensure that it enforces workplace policies evenly but also may need to ensure other decision makers do so as well. This holds true not only for promotion criteria but also day-to-day standards Uneven enforcement of call-out policies or timekeeping requirements can expose an employer to discrimination claims, attorneys say.
"A lot of managers don't realize the risk they are creating for the company," when they fail to enforce the rules, Nicholas Reiter, labor and employment partner, Venable LLP, previously told HR Dive. HR can conduct training, offer reminders and, if necessary, take disciplinary action against managers who refuse to comply.