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Unseen lawsuit peril: Too much performance input from too many co-workers

by on
in Employment Law,Human Resources

Seeking performance appraisal input from too many employees can cause problems if you’re sued by a terminated worker. The wider a net you cast, the more likely someone will be called to testify about his or her opinion of the discharged employee’s performance.

The problem: If any of those co-workers retire, quit and move on, you may have trouble tracking them down. That will hurt your chances of winning the lawsuit.

Recent case: Toni was injured while in the military and was rated as 100% disabled. Her underlying medical problems included frequent seizures.

Then the Social Security Admin­­is­­tra­­tion (SSA) began a trial program designed to lure disabled people to come back to work at the agency. Toni signed up, and the SSA hired her.

The agency later claimed that Toni had trouble getting her work done. It discharged her after several poor performance reviews that were based on co-worker and supervisor input.

Toni sued and demanded access to all those co-workers who had contributed their opinions of her performance to her evaluations. The agency resisted, arguing some co-workers had retired or were otherwise unavailable.

The court said it didn’t care; Toni was entitled to confront them. Her lawsuit will continue. (Works v. Colvin, No. 12-1288, 4th Cir., 2013)

Final note: Comprehensive, 360-degree reviews—in which everyone who works with an employee has input—may sound like a good idea. However, as this case shows, they don’t always work out well.

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