The recent Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals case, Levine v. DeJoy, ____ F.4th ___ (6th Cir. Apr. 10, 2023), has significant implications in the realm of employment law. The Court found that Patricia Levine, an African American employee of the United States Postal Service (USPS), provided sufficient evidence to challenge USPS's claim that it had selected the most qualified candidate for a promotion. This blog post delves into the details of this case and its potential impact on future employment law disputes.
Patricia Levine, a long-standing USPS employee, applied for a retail supervisor position at the main post office in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Levine, who had worked at USPS for 27 years, had extensive supervisory and retail experience, including five years in retail supervision. USPS chose not to promote Levine, opting instead for a white employee named Peare, who Levine alleged was significantly less qualified. The selecting official, Mullins, was also white.
The Court noted several points in Levine's favor, including being asked to train Peare, receiving a 100% mystery shopper score, earning seven awards during her career, completing a higher level of education, and disputing the relevance of Peare's carrier unit supervisory experience. The district court had assigned no weight to these facts, erroneously concluding that they were merely Levine's opinion of her superior qualifications.
As a result of this ruling, employers must exercise caution when making promotion decisions, ensuring that they provide equal opportunities to all qualified candidates, regardless of race or other protected characteristics. The case also serves as a reminder that subjective factors, such as interview performance, should be carefully weighed against objective qualifications to prevent potential discriminatory practices.