Age Discrimination in Workplace Training

by on January 14, 2009 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Info Center

Are They Serious About Training Older Workers?

“Would you show me that procedure for locating a customer record just one more time?” Janet Yale asked her supervisor.

Hiding her exasperation as best she could, the supervisor showed her – for the third time that week – how to do a simple operation in the customer database.

A day later she came back and asked for help again.

At that point the supervisor knocked on HR Director Alice Cruise’s door.

Enough is enough!

“This can’t go on,” she told Alice. “I know Janet has been a loyal employee, and I know you placed her in my department because you didn’t want to let her go after her job was eliminated. But she’s 57 years old and has never used a computer before. Despite all the training we’ve given her, she’s not catching on. I’ve had it!”

Alice met with Janet and gave her the tough news. “Janet, we tried to find you a new position in customer service, but computer skills are essential to that position and you just don’t have them. I’m afraid we’re going to have to let you go.”

Janet left without a fuss. But when she found out that her replacement was 25 years old, she filed a suit charging discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

Did she win?

The decision

No, Janet lost. The court agreed with her contention that the company had an obligation to train her. But it was satisfied that this obligation had been met.

The supervisor was able to produce records showing the large amounts of time and assistance Janet had needed to perform even routine tasks.

The judge ruled that this was sufficient to prove that she could no longer accept an employee with minimal computer skills.

Make every effort to train older employees who lack needed skills.

Warning: Many supervisors have been found guilty of age discrimination because they refused to train older employees.

That’s why you must make every effort to train older employees whose job skills don’t meet current requirements, and you need to have job descriptions that clearly lay out what those requirements are.

The good news is that as long as you can document a good-faith effort to train someone, you have the right to fire employees who can’t perform the key tasks in their job descriptions with little fear of an age discrimination lawsuit.

Ward v. Procter & Gamble.

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