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Old school: No ageist comments about training

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Remind managers and supervisors that all qualified employees, regardless of age, should be offered appropriate training.

Telling older workers that they may not succeed can mean a big lawsuit loss later.

Recent case: Donald, who was over age 40, worked for a power company and took a training class on nuclear plant operations.

He did not do well and failed the course. There were extenuating circumstances: Donald missed several training sessions, as well as an exam because his wife came down with a serious illness and there was a fire at his home.

When the next training session was ready to begin, Donald asked his boss if he could try again. He knew that he might lose his job if he didn’t pass the class and get the certification.

His supervisor denied the request, saying, “I do not think you’ll be successful. I think that training is a young man’s game.” Shortly after, Donald lost his job.

He sued for age discrimination.

The court said his case could go forward, noting that the supervisor’s comment was directly related to the refusal to let him take the course again. (LeGrand v. PPL Susquehanna, No. 3:12-CV-238, MD PA, 2015)

Final note: Employees deserve a chance to fail. If you offer training, make it available to everyone who is qualified.

It’s OK to restrict participation, but it can’t be discriminatory. You can use a waiting list, seniority or other neutral factors to limit how many receive the training, as long as you don’t single out any particular group for exclusion.

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