If you have long-term employees whose performances are deteriorating, step carefully. Their long histories with the company could mean you’ll have a hard time justifyingeven in light of poor performances.
Instead of jumping the gun and firing immediately, take your time. In fact, it may be a good idea to allow more than one supervisor to witness each decliningup close. That way, each supervisor can make an independent performance assessment.
If everyone agrees there is an ongoing problem that can’t be corrected, you can terminate. Then, if you are sued for discrimination (on the basis of age, race, gender, etc.), you can point out that the firing wasn’t the result of one prejudiced supervisor.
Recent case: Lester Pearl Thomas, who is black and over age 40, was a General Motors employee for more than 29 years. Although Thomas had worked her way up at GM, she began having. A new supervisor first noted the deficiencies.
GM then put her under a new supervisor, who also reported performance problems. Ditto for the third supervisor. The company then put Thomas on a performance-improvement plan and fired her when she didn’t complete the assignments it called for.
Thomas sued, alleging race and age discrimination and harassment. But the court tossed out the case, reasoning that three supervisors had evaluated her performance and found it lacking.
Thomas had nothing to refute their assessments. (Thomas v. General Motors Corporation, No. 05-72851, ED MI, 2007)
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