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Prepare thorough record if ‘Star’ employee begins to fall

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in Employment Law,Human Resources,Leaders & Managers,Performance Reviews

Nothing looks worse to a jury than an employer who fires an employee for poor performance after the employee receives stellar performance reviews. Juries often have a hard time believing an employer is telling the truth when a previously highly praised employee’s performance suddenly plummets.

That’s why you must make sure supervisors and managers prepare honest evaluations, avoid gushing assessments and stick to objective measures such as goals achieved and major projects completed. If performance is falling, document that thoroughly, too.

Recent case: Caribou Coffee Company hired Bachir Mihoubi, who is of Arab descent, as vice president of global finance. He reported directly to the highest corporate level. His first review noted that he was “a superstar.” For his efforts, Mihoubi received a $100,000 bonus.

Then Mihoubi’s performance began to falter. Senior managers said he failed to complete one important project and refused to complete another.

Mihoubi claimed he was being targeted for punishment because he was of Arab descent. Shortly after he filed an EEOC complaint, Caribou fired him. He then sued for retaliation and discrimination.

Naturally, Mihoubi pointed to his great review and large bonus as proof he was performing well.

But he couldn’t persuade the court that the later criticism was untrue—he had, in fact, failed to complete two projects. The court dismissed his case. (Mihoubi v. Caribou Coffee Company, No. 07-14217, 11th Cir., 2008)

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