If you have an internal training program designed to help employees advance their careers, make sure that it doesn’t unintentionally spur sex or other discrimination lawsuits.
In your HR role, encourage collaboration between staff members who design the training programs, rank the graduates and then make promotion decisions. If they don’t work together, and there’s a pattern that looks like discrimination in who receives promotions, that could spell big trouble.
Recent case: Joseph Dimino worked for HSBC Bank as a sales assistant. He applied for and was accepted into the company’s retailtraining program. Dimino completed the program but was not promoted into management.
The class consisted of nine women and seven men. Four men, including Dimino, topped the final evaluation list, which also included three women. Just four graduates were offered management positions, all of them women.
Dimino sued, alleging sex discrimination.
Simultaneously, Dimino’s attitude took a nose dive, the bank said. He was eventually terminated for insubordination, poor attitude and general negativity. He then added retaliation to his lawsuit.
HSBC defended its promotion actions by pointing out that graduates weren’t guaranteed management jobs. It also argued that Dimino hadn’t performed as well in the program as his ranking suggested. Managers said he was argumentative and negative; that’s why he wasn’t picked.
The court dismissed the retaliation claim based on Dimino’s post-training behavior.
But it said Dimino’s sex discrimination claim could go to trial, based on the fact that he wasn’t criticized or punished for his supposed evils during training and that only women got promotions. He has a case for sex discrimination in promotion even though he was later legitimately fired. (Dimino v. HSBC Bank, No. 11-Civ-4189, SD NY, 2012)