Is rejecting a senior’s training request justified?

Due to the diversity and sophistication of lab and plant instruments, filling the role of Instrument Repairman Class I was quite a difficult task. So when openings in the training program for IR-1 instruction occurred, only four workers applied.
By Raymond Dreyfack October 1, 1999

Due to the diversity and sophistication of lab and plant instruments, filling the role of Instrument Repairman Class I was quite a difficult task. So when openings in the training program for IR-1 instruction occurred, only four workers applied.

By far the most experienced applicant was Instrument Repairman Class II Grant Kramer. Kramer, 63, was a 14-yr veteran of the maintenance department and had held the Class II job for 9 yr. From that standpoint, he was well qualified for advanced training and promotion to Class I status. So when rejected for training, he was shocked.

“I don’t dispute your ability or experience,” Maintenance Foreman Chuck Alboum told Kramer. “I’m turning you down because of your age. That training program is expensive. So is the transition period required for the shift from Class II to Class I. By the time you’re set in the new job, you’ll be ready for retirement. You know 65 is mandatory retirement here.”

Alboum’s explanation did not sit well with Kramer. “I deserve a crack at that job. Unless I get it, I’m going to file for age discrimination.”

Alboum shrugged. “That’s your privilege, but you’ll be wasting your time.”

Question: Does Kramer have a case? Should he be enrolled in the training?

Marshall’s decision: “No way,” Plant Engineer Lewis Marshall ruled when informed of Kramer’s threat. “An employer is entitled to fair return on its training investment. The instruction itself runs 3 mo. Even if he did well, it would be a year until he becomes fully qualified. By then, he’d be about ready for retirement under the age 65 retirement policy. This isn’t age discrimination. It’s common sense and good business.”