Lots of employers like to promote from within instead of recruiting applicants from outside. One reason is that current employees already understand the employer’s business. Another is that employees tend to be more loyal if they see advancement opportunities.
But not every employee is suited to promotion—something that may not become clear until far into the process. That’s why smart employers set reasonable expectations for training success and remain prepared to demote those who don’t make the cut.
Recent case: Chester Cromwell started his career with Innovative Telephone as a janitor. He was promoted a year later to installer/repairman on a trial basis. The company told him he had to become certified as a pole climber to keep the position.
The company conducted its training in-house. The certification process included classroom instruction, plus a written test with 20 true/false and multiple-choice questions. Employees had to score at least 80% to become certified. During the time Cromwell was undergoing training, everyone else passed. But Cromwell took the test six times without achieving a passing grade.
The company gave him paid time off to study. He even had the opportunity to take the test orally when it seemed his English skills might have been contributing to his failure. His union steward read the questions and recorded his answers. Still, he could not get an acceptable score. He was then demoted back to janitor and eventually terminated.
He sued, alleging that the company and union had failed to live up to the terms of the union contract. He claimed Innovative Telephone and his union were obligated to provide the training he needed to succeed.
But the court said both the employer and the union had done all they were required to do. (Cromwell v. United Steelworkers, et al., No. 10-3886, 3rd Cir., 2011)
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