Employers should be careful to design training programs that make training opportunities available for all. But sometimes, an employee won’t be able to participate in training. In those cases, be prepared to explain why.
Recent case: John, who is black, worked as a feeder operator in a printing department where he assisted press operators who printed credit cards and ID badges. The presses operated 24 hours a day in three eight-hour shifts.
Employees traditionally received undocumented on-the-job training, rather than formal training. John, who was interested in a promotion, requested training to become a press operator.
Around the same time, the printing department introduced formalized training for printers.
At the meeting where the new training program was introduced, John complained of his inability to obtain the training he desired in the past and that he believed the reason was his race.
A few months later, John got into a fistfight with a co-worker. John then went home and didn’t show up for several days. Meanwhile, the employer investigated, concluded John was at fault and fired him.
John sued, alleging race discrimination and retaliation.
But the court tossed out his case after determining that the employer had legitimate business reasons for each move it made.
First, it had explained to the court’s satisfaction that the reason John wasn’t trained was that his press line operated constantly and that his services couldn’t be sacrificed for training time. Second, there was no connection between John’s discharge and his discrimination complaint—he was fired because he attacked a co-worker. (Jones v. Gemalto, No. 13-2012, 3rd Cir., 2014)
Final note: If time constraints deprive some of training, devise a plan for temporary transfers so eventually everyone has a chance.
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