Layoffs looming? OK to consider training participation when deciding who goes

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Like other employers, your organization probably is trying to use employees as efficiently as possible. That may include eliminating some jobs and training employees to pick up additional tasks.

You may want to consider creating a cross-training program before deciding which employees to terminate. Those who show a willingness to learn new skills and the ability to perform them well are probably the “keepers” on your staff. Just make sure you offer everyone the same opportunity to learn.

Recent case: Cathy Slattery worked for RMS, packaging parts for shipping. Although she worked for the company for a decade and got decent reviews for the work she did, Slattery didn’t take advantage of her company’s cross-training program as much as most others in her department did. And when she did try new skills, she didn’t do well.

Slattery, who was over age 40, was one of the employees laid off during an economic downturn. The company said she was selected in part because she had not successfully cross-trained. Since the company was becoming smaller, it wanted as many of its employees as possible to be as flexible as possible. Those with more skills kept their jobs.

Slattery sued, alleging “flexible” was code for “young.”

The court disagreed. It looked at the company’s cross-training program and Slattery’s apparent inability or unwillingness to learn new skills and concluded no age discrimination had occurred. (Slattery v. RMS, No. 09-252, DC MN, 2010)

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