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Supervisors need to know: Honest performance assessments essential

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

Many discrimination lawsuits are the direct result of poor performance appraisal processes.

A supervisor who is eager to maintain a cordial and productive workplace may hold back on legitimate criticism to avoid rocking the boat. This tactic can backfire badly once a new supervisor begins enforcing productivity rules and downgrades an employee previously rated “stellar.”

If that employee is also a member of a protected class, look out. There’s probably a lawsuit lurking, and chances are it will go to trial if you can’t justify the new, “accurate” appraisal.

Remember, the employee will call the previous supervisor to the stand. If he or she now says the previous evaluations didn’t reflect how poorly the employee was actually performing, the court will be suspicious of the change of heart and may view it as proof of discrimination.

Recent case: Bobbie Mayne, who is black, worked as a medical coder for more than 15 years with excellent performance appraisals. Then a new supervisor arrived, and her appraisals sank. She ultimately was fired for poor performance.

Mayne fired back with a race discrimination lawsuit. As the case was beginning, the former supervisors who had once praised her work now said she really had been a poor performer. When the court heard that, it ordered a trial. A jury will decide if the new supervisor was motivated by race discrimination. (Mayne v. Fort Wayne Cardiology, No. 1:06-CV-288, ND IN, 2007) 

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