For years, one of the biggest drivers of improved worker productivity has been better technology in the workplace. Sophisticated software, faster computers and more-capable factory machinery mean workers can accomplish more in a shift than they used to.
But all that technological innovation means that employees who want to keep up must be open to training. How you handle that training can make a big difference when the time comes to lay off employees you no longer need because your company has become more efficient or whose skills have become obsolete.
If those selected for termination largely belong to a protected class that’s different from that of the employees you retain, you may be in trouble.
Take, for example, an older employee who is slated to lose his job because the specialized knowledge he has relied on to make a living has changed. If you gave others an opportunity to learn new skills and didn’t offer the same opportunities to the older employee, you may be hit with an age discrimination lawsuit.
Access top-notch employment law advice from Mindy Chapman, Esq., one of the Society for Human Resource Management's top-rated speakers!
Recent case: James Wall worked for a large commercial photo laboratory for most of his adult life. He was 65 years old and still held a job as a technician and color analyst when the entire photography industry was undergoing major changes as it moved from film to digital technology.
Wall’s employer gradually eliminated all film-based photo processing. It got rid of the obsolete machines and bought digital equipment that did the same job with far fewer employees. Wall was warned he might be out of a job when the changes began, but he never expressed any interest in the training the company made available to its employees.
Instead, he went about completing the menial tasks like breaking down the old film labs because that was the only work available that didn’t involve digital technology. When that work was done, Wall lost his job.
He sued, alleging age discrimination.
But the lab showed that it no longer needed Wall’s film-based processing skills, that Wall wasn’t open to retraining and that he actually spent a considerable amount of work time sleeping.
The court tossed out the case. It reasoned that the employer had shown its decisions were based on business needs and technological changes, not age discrimination. (Wall v. The Alderman Company, No. 1:08-CV-785, MD NC)
In her trademark entertaining style, Mindy will explain what the EEOC is targeting and how your organization can fly under the Commission’s radar in her new interactive webinar: Curing The Lawsuit Epidemic — with Mindy Chapman’s HR ‘Booster Shot.’
Training opportunities for all
Employees have the right to be considered for training available to all other employees, without regard to their membership in a protected class.
For example, you simply can’t deny opportunities because of preconceived notions about an employee—such as an assumed unwillingness to learn new skills because the employee is older or disabled.
Here are some tips for documenting that your training programs are fair and impartial:
- Publicize the training opportunities so all employees are aware of what is available.
- Include an equal opportunity statement in the announcement.
- Explain that reasonable accommodations are available for disabled employees who want to participate. Make sure the training site is accessible.
During this entertaining and informative webinar, Mindy will share her vital insights on:
You’ll also have an opportunity to ask Mindy your own questions during the interactive Q&A session.
- Where employers are most vulnerable to employee lawsuits in today's economy — and how you should build your defenses immediately.
- The essential changes to policies and procedures needed to avoid employment liability in 2010.
- The latest legal developments that every HR professional should be aware of.
- Practical lessons you can apply today from 10 EEOC rulings.
- The meaning of “DITO DITA” and why you should post this motto on your wall.