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Beware contradictions in performance reviews

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Performance Reviews

Do you evaluate employees’ overall performance and then conduct a special appraisal to determine extra rewards such as bonuses? If so, make sure both processes paint a true performance picture and don’t contradict each other.

Because that could be a real problem if you later have to fire someone for poor performance.

Recent case: Michael Muzyka worked as a personal banker for Regions Bank. He had tough sales and deposit targets to hit, as did his fellow personal bankers.

Muzyka had bipolar disorder. He sometimes became depressed, confused and had a hard time concentrating. He told his boss about his condition and requested several accommodations, including a reduced client load. His requests were mostly denied.

The supervisor began finding fault with Muzyka’s performance and wrote him up for missing his goals. At the same time, however, Muzyka also received a regular “score card” showing progress toward a minimum score that would net him a year-end bonus.

But then Muzyka was terminated—before bonuses were distributed. He sued, alleging he had been targeted because of his disability and accommodation requests.

He noted that his score card showed he was eligible for the bonus and argued that he couldn’t be a substandard performer if his score card was that high. In fact, his score was higher than other nondisabled employees who weren’t fired.

The court said the case should go to trial so a jury can decide whether Regions Bank used alleged poor performance as an excuse to terminate a disabled employee.

The score card will be a crucial piece of evidence that the bank must counter with solid examples of poor performance—poor enough to justify Muzyka’s termination while retaining others with lower score card numbers. (Muzyka v. Regions Bank, No. 8:10-CV-2413, MD FL, 2012)

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