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Yes, You Can Be Fired For Refusing Remedial Training

by | Apr 11, 2024 | Employment Discrimination, Employment Law, Race Discrimination, Retaliation, Wrongful Termination |

In the ever-changing landscape of employment law, it’s crucial to stay informed about your rights and legal options. Today, let’s dive into a recent case that underscores the importance of understanding the nuances of workplace discrimination, retaliation, and the significance of remedial training. In Moye v. Tregre, Sheriff, No. 22-30341, 2024 WL 65424, at *1–2 (5th Cir. Jan. 5, 2024), Sharleen Moye, who is a Black woman, took a stand against her termination, alleging race discrimination, disparate treatment, retaliation, and workplace harassment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Moye joined the St. John the Baptist Parish Sheriff’s Office in March 2018 as a probationary 911 Dispatch Operator. The Sheriff’s Office policy mandated a six-month probationary period for new hires, during which employees could be terminated at any time. Despite attending training programs, Moye struggled with her job, as evidenced by multiple unsatisfactory Daily Observation Reports (DORs). “Those DORs reveal—and Moye admits—that she had a tenuous grasp of the most basic aspects of her job. Moye also acknowledges that she showed no improvement in the course of her probationary employment period on multiple work-related tasks.”

Moye’s journey at SJBSO took a disconcerting turn when, just two months into her employment, she complained to Commander Marshall Carmouche about Abbate, the supervisor overseeing the day shift. Alleging discrimination, Moye claimed that Sergeant Jessica Abbate was favoring “the white trainees,” though failing to cite specific incidents. Following her complaint but consistent with probationary training protocols, Moye found herself transferred to the night shift, now supervised by Tennika Tassin.

In a subsequent incident, Abbate made a derogatory comment, remarking that Moye “sounded ghetto on the phone.” Swiftly, the Sheriff’s Office took immediate disciplinary action against Abbate for his inappropriate remark, showcasing the organization’s commitment to addressing discriminatory behavior.

After her ninth DOR, she was ordered to attend remedial training on August 6, 2018, which she declined to do. Subsequently, a disciplinary hearing – which she also skipped – resulted in a recommendation of her employment being termination for insubordination. Moye was then fired on August 8, 2018.

Can I sue individuals under Title VII?

No. This is a concept of individual liability – suing the person that engaged in the racial discrimination or harassment. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is a federal law that prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, gender, or national origin. While Title VII provides a robust framework for addressing discrimination in the workplace, it does not explicitly provide for individual liability against supervisors, co-workers, or other individuals within the workplace. Instead, Title VII primarily focuses on the liability of employers. In dismissing the claims against the individuals, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, quoting Grant v. Lone Star Co., 21 F.3d 649, 652 (5th Cir. 1994), held: “Only ‘employers,’ not individuals acting in their individual capacity who do not otherwise meet the definition of ‘employers,’ can be liable under title VII.”

However, certain states, like Ohio, provide state law that permit claims against individuals.

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When will an employer be held liable for racial harassment of non-managers?

To prove a case of racial discrimination based on the conduct of a coworker, fellow employee, or other non-manager, and employee must present evidence that (1) the employee belongs to a protected group (race); (2) the employee was subjected to unwelcome harassment; (3) the harassment complained of was based on her membership in the protected group; (4) the harassment complained of affected a term, condition, or privilege of employment; and (5) the employer knew or should have known of the harassment in question and failed to take prompt remedial action.

Let me be very clear, the word “ghetto” should never be uttered in a work environment. No employee should be subjected to such racially hostile language. Certainly, being confronted with such language is enough to justify bringing a claim. But it does not mean that such claim will be won – which a good employee’s rights attorney will advise the employee and seek a fair settlement.

In Moye, she could not overcome the fifth element. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held:

We need not address the first four elements, for the last one forecloses Moye’s claim. An employer is not liable for workplace harassment under Title VII when it takes “prompt remedial action that is reasonably calculated to end the harassment.” Hudson v. Lincare, Inc., 58 F.4th 222, 230 (5th Cir. 2023) (quotation marks and citation omitted).

The only specific incidents supporting Moye’s harassment claim are Abbate’s “ghetto” remark and Baker’s email. In both incidents, SJBSO swiftly intervened once it learned about the complained-of conduct: Abbate was immediately disciplined for her “ghetto” remark. And Baker was suspended without pay for his email. In sum, SJBSO “acted swiftly in taking remedial measures and the harassment ceased.” Id. at 231 (quotation marks and citation omitted).

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Is being sent to remedial training an adverse action?

Remedial training, when legitimately required due to performance issues, may not be considered an adverse action on its own. However, the context matters. Given that Moye admitted to not being good at her job, it is hard to successfully claim that the employer sent her for more training only because she was Black or because of her race. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held: “The remedial training requirement is, at most, ‘differential treatment that helps the employee.” Harrison, 82 F.4th at 431 (emphasis added) (quotation marks and citation omitted). It is not an employment action ‘that injures the affected employee.’ Id. (citation omitted). Moye’s disparate treatment claim fails.”

Can I be fired for refusing remedial training?

Yes, employees can be terminated for refusing remedial training, especially if it is a reasonable and necessary measure to address performance issues. Moye’s case illustrates the importance of complying with job requirements, even if the employee disputes the need for additional training. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held: “As for termination, Moye was aware that Carmouche had ordered her to attend remedial training and that her attendance was mandatory. But Moye never showed up—in direct violation of Carmouche’s order. The record plainly shows that Moye was fired for insubordination, which is a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for her termination.”

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What should I do if I was fired after reporting race discrimination or harassment?

If you believe you were terminated due to race discrimination or harassment, it’s crucial to consult an attorney promptly. Reporting discrimination is a protected activity under Title VII. A knowledgeable attorney, like those at Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm, can help you navigate the complexities of employment law, assess the strength of your claim, and guide you through the legal process. Spitz offers a free initial consultation to discuss your case. With a no fee guarantee, you pay nothing unless they win your case. Their expertise in employment law, especially discrimination and wrongful termination, makes them the best choice for individuals seeking justice in the face of workplace adversity.

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Before we conclude, it’s essential to clarify that this blog serves as an informational resource and advertisement. The legal opinions expressed are those of the individual lawyer and may not reflect the opinions of The Spitz Law Firm, Brian Spitz, or any specific attorney. Accessing this information does not create an attorney-client relationship for your employment law needs. For personalized advice, schedule a free initial consultation with an attorney from Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm.

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