Denied training opportunity isn’t necessarily discrimination

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Management Training

It’s not discrimination for an employer to offer training to some employees but not others—if the training doesn’t lead to greater pay, advancement opportunities or other tangible benefits. Simply put, employers don’t have to worry about discrimination lawsuits if their decisions are based on solid business reasons.

Recent case: Dana Harris, who is a Muslim, worked at a Shop ’n Save store as a cashier. Nonsupervisory employees worked either as cashiers or at a customer service center in the store. Cashiers, customer service employees and the store’s customer service manager all received the same wages and benefits and worked under the same employment terms.

The trouble began when Harris was denied training to become a customer service manager. She sued, claiming Shop ’n Save didn’t provide training to her because of her religion.

But Shop ’n Save pointed out that the position for which she wanted to be trained was management in name only. Since customer service managers got the same pay and benefits, and the position wasn’t a step up the career ladder, it couldn’t be considered a promotion.

The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s dismissal of the religious discrimination lawsuit that found Harris had not suffered an “adverse employment” decision. Failing to receive the training did not cost her a promotion opportunity or additional pay and benefits. The court concluded that even if she could have shown that her religion was the reason she was turned down for training, she still couldn’t win the case because she had lost nothing. (Harris v. Supervalue Holdings, No. 07-3004, 3rd Cir., 2008)

Final note: The result might have been different if Harris had shown that the training she didn’t get was a prerequisite to further promotions.

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