HR Management & Compliance

Can Failure to Train Be Considered Employment Discrimination?

The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals— which covers Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee— recently reaffirmed that failure to train an employee can be an actionable form of discrimination.


Charles Reed, an African American, began working as a technician at Procter & Gamble’s Tennessee plant in 1996. He was promoted to a technician 2 position in 1997 and became a technician 3 in 2003. Despite submitting the required supervisor-approved written work plans identifying the goals and qualifications he should achieve, he failed to qualify for another promotion.

While most technicians rotated through various jobs, Reed was assigned to an “extended role” position involving environmental and legal compliance. Shortly after discussions about eliminating the number of extended role positions began, he spoke with HR officials about his belief that his supervisor wasn’t properly supporting his efforts to get a promotion.

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Reed felt that white employees were “solicited” to work on their promotion plans, while he had to initiate his own efforts. His complaints resulted in meetings with his supervisor, but even Reed acknowledged that he had completed only 75 percent of the requirements for receiving a promotion. A short time later, he was one of two employees whose extended role position was eliminated. He believed the decision was in retaliation for his comments to HR and his support of a coworker’s discrimination complaint.

In addition, Reed believed one of the decision makers had engaged in a “noose incident” directed at him. According to Reed, his team leader picked up a phone cord and walked outside his field of vision. He heard a coworker say something to the team leader along the lines of, “Are you fixing to hang somebody?” The team leader then threw something in the trash. Reed interpreted the exchange to mean that his team leader had made a noose from the cord.

Reed filed a lawsuit claiming race discrimination and retaliation. He challenged his removal from the extended role position, the failure to promote him to a technician 4 position, and the failure to properly train him. He also claimed that the noose incident and several racial jokes he heard in the workplace created a “hostile work environment.”

Brandon Gearhart is an editor of Kentucky Employment Law Letter. You can reach him at

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In tomorrow’s Advisor, we’ll find out the results of the lawsuit, plus we’ll look at a unique resource that helps small HR departments get the job done effectively and professionally.

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