Inadequate Training May Be an Adverse Action Under Title VII.


While discrimination claims under Title VII typically require some “ultimate employment decision,” the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit found that a training decision can constitute an adverse action in violation of the law.

In order to assert a discrimination claim under Title VII, an employee must show, among other things, that they suffered some “adverse employment action.” Courts have usually interpreted that to mean some “ultimate employment decision” affecting job duties, compensation, or benefits. In Rahman v. Exxon Mobil, the employee contended that he was inadequately trained because of his Black race, as compared to a White co-worker, leading to his termination.

The federal district court found that the alleged inadequate training did not amount to an adverse employment action. However, the Fifth Circuit disagreed, finding that inadequate training can be considered an adverse action “if the training is directly tied to the worker’s job duties, compensation, or benefits.” In this case, the employee required training in order to pass certain tests, and his inability to pass the tests resulted in his termination.

However, the Fifth Circuit found no inadequate training here. It clarified that “an inadequate training claim must be based on, in essence, a failure to provide comparable training.” According to the Fifth Circuit, an inadequate training claim will fail if the employee is provided with “a roughly similar opportunity to access the necessary parts of the training program.” (All emphases in the original). And that was the case here.

The lesson here is that actions that apparently fall short of “ultimate employment actions” may still form the basis of a viable discrimination claim if they directly impact such a decision.