Poor Job Performance Due to Lack of Training: What’s My Recourse?

You were hired to do a job for which you have received no or inadequate training resulting in your dismissal. What can you do about it? To answer this question, first, we need to establish the terms of employment you agreed to when you were hired. Even the state where you work can have some bearing on this as we’ll see later. For starters, let’s examine the nature of your employment relationship.

The average cost to an employer to recruit, screen, hire, and train a new employee is in the thousands. Consequently, most employers will expend as many other options as possible before dismissing a new hire. And when the cause is something that can be readily corrected, like a performance issue, termination should indeed be a last resort.

Weighing the relevant factors

So if you’ve been given the boot for poor job performance, recourse depends on several factors:

  • Was training an explicit condition of your employment?
  • Have co-workers in similar positions received the same level of training as you received?
  • Is your performance commensurate with that of co-workers who haven’t lost their jobs?
  • Were other employees dismissed for the same reason or was it just you?

It usually makes more financial sense for an employer to invest in training current employees than to hire replacements. Coaching from co-workers, or even moving a sub-performing employee to another more suitable position, is often preferable to firing an employee and starting over with a new hire. Even if your employer did not explicitly promise a certain amount of training upon hiring you, it’s still in their best interest to train you rather than replace you.

As mentioned previously, some states include what is known as a good faith and fair dealing covenant within the framework of at-will employment. Courts in these states interpret wrongful termination cases with the expectation that both parties are dealing with each other fairly and without malice. In a case where the employee’s poor performance resulted in dismissal, the court would expect to see that a fair and honest attempt was made by the employer to help improve the worker’s performance before resorting to dismissal.

Performance issues

Employers have both legal and financial incentive to deal equitably and consistently with their employees. If one employee isn’t offered the same level of training as co-workers performing in the same capacity, that’s a potential problem. Likewise, if an employee is singled out for poor performance, while other employees are performing at the same level, this can spell trouble for your boss. And if lack of training is impacting employees’ performance, termination isn’t in anyone’s best interest.

At-will employers are not obligated by law to provide a reason for dismissal; but if they choose to specify a reason, they’re going to want to be sure it’s one that can be substantiated in order to avoid litigation. For the same reason, most at-will employers refrain from using probation periods to indoctrinate and evaluate new hires. The implication that an employee’s job is secure for the duration of a probationary period creates a conflict with the at-will relationship.

Is It wrongful discharge?

If you’ve been fired from your job for the cause of poor performance, and have never received training for the position, you likely have a case for wrongful termination. Performance records, personnel files, and documentation that you can provide indicating that training would be provided will help bolster your claim.

It may not be worth restoring your job at a company that would fire you without providing training, but you can seek other forms of legal restitution for having lost your livelihood. A successful claim of wrongful discharge can restore lost wages, punitive damages, back pay, and other compensation. Contact an employment attorney near you for additional advice.