Performance improvement plans (PIPs) can help turn around subpar employees. But if you use PIPs, make sure you implement them equitably. For example, if you place a salesperson on a PIP to raise falling sales, then institute a PIP for everyone whose sales have fallen to the same level.
That’s especially important if one of the employees is about to takeor is pregnant. You don’t want to appear as if you have targeted someone who needs time off, while leaving others alone.
Recent case: Jennifer Constable had little experience when she began working as a salesperson, but she was quickly promoted and dubbed a “rising star.” Then, a few weeks after she informed her boss she was pregnant, he told her that her sales numbers weren’t good enough. She was placed on a PIP with four specific goals, including bringing her sales numbers up.
Around the same time, a male salesperson with similar sales numbers was also put on a PIP with the same goals. Constable missed her target by $100,000, while the male missed his by much more. When the man kept his job and Constable was terminated, she sued alleging pregnancy discrimination.
The court said she had more than enough evidence to bring the case to trial. The court took note that someone who was once a rising star found herself on a PIP shortly after announcing she was pregnant. It saw that as possible pretext for illegal.
To top the case off, the court also concluded that pregnancy discrimination is illegal under the Florida Civil Rights Act, giving Constable two laws under which to recover damages. (Constable v. Agilysys, No. 8:10-CV-01778, MD FL, 2011)
- Firing? Pick a reason and stick with it
- 7 common-sense ways to cut your company's legal bills
- No need to extend maternity leave when it's clear mother won't be able to return
- Granting reasonable accommodation isn't enough--you must make sure it actually happens
- Lower-level bias can illegally taint firing decision