When supervisors conduct employee reviews, they may be doing much more than giving constructive feedback. In fact, employee reviews can be a crucial piece of evidence when defending against a claim of employment discrimination.
For this reason, employers should assure that those supervisors, or anyone else in charge of doing performance reviews, take great care to make a true and accurate assessment of an employee’s actual performance. Failing to do so could have dire consequences should litigation arise later.
Human nature can make many supervisors hesitant to give an employee a poor review because they know they will need to work with that employee in the future. This may cause supervisors to inflate reviews in an effort to avoid confrontation or tension with an employee who may not be performing at their highest potential.
While this may seem harmless enough and may even promote a less tense work environment, generous reviews could mean the difference between successfully defending a lawsuit or being found guilty of discrimination. This could occur when employees are terminated for poor performance despite performance reviews that indicate satisfactory performance.
Should an employee be terminated for poor performance, but later claim discrimination, the generous performance reviews created by that employee’s supervisor will do nothing but enhance that employee’s claim. A jury that sees satisfactory ratings on multiple performance reviews may be more likely to find discrimination or retaliation when that same employee is later terminated for bad performance. This could allow an employee to succeed on a false claim of discrimination or retaliation simply because the performance reviews do not back up the employer’s claims.
For these reasons, employers should instill in all managers and supervisors that accurate performance reviews are an absolute necessity. This may be especially difficult in smaller companies where many supervisors and employees have developed close relationships that would make a supervisor want to protect an under-performing employee. It is up to the employer to ensure that this type of activity is not tolerated, because it could impart liability on an employer later on, as well as lead to the retention of under-performing employees.
Photo credit: Microsoft