Can you override seniority to boost minority status?

An Electrician Grade I vacancy opened up in the maintenance department. The question in Maintenance Foreman Pete Effram's mind was whom to promote from Grade II: Paul Gomez or Frank Grimaldi.
By Raymond Dreyfack October 1, 1999

An Electrician Grade I vacancy opened up in the maintenance department. The question in Maintenance Foreman Pete Effram’s mind was whom to promote from Grade II: Paul Gomez or Frank Grimaldi. From a performance standpoint, both employees were more or less equal. The problem was that Grimaldi was the more senior employee.

There was another consideration involved. As a Hispanic, Gomez was a minority worker. Effram was in favor of giving minority workers a break. With this thought in mind he posted Gomez’s promotion on the bulletin board. Grimaldi’s response was quick and indignant.

“You’re in violation of the contract,” he accused. “You can’t promote a junior employee in favor of a senior employee. Especially when we’re equally qualified.”

Effram disagreed. “Paul Gomez is a minority employee. That gives him a qualifying edge.”

Refusing to buy that explanation, Grimaldi threatened to grieve.

Question: Does Effram’s rationale hold water? Can he make Gomez’s promotion stick?

Bradley’s verdict: The foreman filled Plant Engineer Phil Bradley in on the dispute.

“Your position might hold up,” Bradley said, “if it could be proved that the company’s minority recognition and promotion system was discriminatory. But that’s not the case. Thus, giving Gomez the nod over Grimaldi could be construed as evidence of reverse discrimination. My suggestion is that you give Grimaldi the promotion this time, explain the situation to Gomez, and tell him that he will get his turn at the first opportunity.”