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When performance slips, don’t let past good reviews affect decision-making

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Firing,Human Resources

Some employees do well for years, only to have their performance slip. There may come a time when you have to let the employee go.

But what about all those glowing evaluations from years past? If you can prove that the employee’s performance has genuinely declined, those earlier evaluations won’t cause any trouble in court.

Recent case: Randolph managed a factory that manufactured driver’s licenses. He got excellent reviews and had a low rejection rate for poorly made cards. Then the company won a big contract to produce secure driver’s licenses for California. A new plant was set up, and Randolph was tapped to run it.

Unfortunately, the defect rate was extremely high and a massive backlog developed. Randolph was ordered to work additional hours and run the plant 24/7. He did, but errors continued and subordinates complained that he was often nowhere to be found when they needed him.

Efforts to update software and improve Randolph’s inspection processes brought no improvement. He was fired and a younger manager with less experience was promoted.

Randolph sued, alleging age discrimination. He pointed to years of good evaluations as proof that he was a great manager who had been fired to promote a younger employee.

The court tossed out his case after reviewing the evaluations. It concluded that the real reason for Randolph’s termination was poor performance. (Brown v. L-1 Secure, No. 2-11-2848, ED CA, 2012)

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