Federal Court Rules In EEOC’s Favor, Holding That Fired Employees Are Not Required To Return To School

ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Finding that employees have no obligation to go to school after they are fired, a federal court in Rochester has denied Dresser-Rand Company’s attempt to limit damages in a long-standing lawsuit between the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the company.

In 2004 the EEOC sued Dresser-Rand, a Houston-based heavy manufacturing company (Civil Action No. 04-6300-CJS in U.S. District Court for the XXX District of New York), for firing Harry Davis, a Jehovah’s Witness and a manual machine tool operator at Dresser-Rand’s Painted Post, N.Y., location, for refusing to work on a part intended for use in a submarine. In 2006 the court denied Dresser-Rand’s attempt to dismiss the EEOC’s lawsuit in its entirety, holding that the jury should decide if an accommodation that had worked in the past – allowing Davis to switch assignments with other employees – could continue.

In 2010 Dresser-Rand attempted to limit Davis’s back pay damages, arguing that he could have gone to Corning Community College for retraining as a computer machinist. On Aug. 11, 2011, the court denied the motion, holding that employees who are fired for discriminatory reasons must seek other employment, and are not required to go to school for retraining. The court said that because Davis had sought and found other employment, the fact that he did not go to school was irrelevant. The court prevented a defense expert from testifying about the fact that Davis did not go to school. A trial date has not been set.

“This decision makes the important point that an employee fired for a discriminatory reason is not required to seek retraining or additional education,” said EEOC New York Regional Attorney Elizabeth Grossman. “An employer cannot turn around and argue that its former employee somehow harmed the employer by not seeking retraining after being fired.”

“Davis did what the law requires: sought and found work with the skills he had when he was fired by Dresser-Rand,” added EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Michael J. O’Brien.

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available at www.eeoc.gov.