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Did you get passed over for a key promotion?

You have been with the company for five years. A promotion comes up, and you decide to apply. You did the same thing last year, but it went to another co-worker. You wondered at the time if they were qualified, but you didn't think about it too much.

This year, you know you are the most qualified candidate they have. After all, the only competition already got promoted. You apply, feeling like the job is definitely going to go to you.

But it doesn't. You get passed over again. You can't believe it.

When you look into what to do, people often give solid but incomplete advice. They tell you to refocus negative emotions or to think of it as a learning opportunity. They encourage you to seek employment elsewhere or to consider other changes for your future. They may even tell you to ask the company for feedback to see how you can improve.

This is good advice, but it leaves out something crucial: Discrimination is real. Maybe you are a female worker who just watched two male workers get promoted over you, despite being more qualified. Maybe you're a 50-year-old worker who saw two 20-somethings with far less experience take the job. Perhaps you're an African American worker who had to watch as two white workers got promoted.

The unfortunate reality is that discrimination, despite being illegal, does still exist. It can have a massive impact on your career, and, as you can see, it may hold you back. If so, make sure you know what legal options you have.

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