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The recession has put the brakes on pay raises in many workplaces. But too many employers have halted performance reviews at the same time. That’s a major mistake.

Reason: Discharged employees who sue will have a much easier time getting to a jury trial if you can’t produce evaluations that back up your stated termination reasons. Without written and predisciplinary evidence, it doesn’t matter what reason you offer. The termination will probably look so suspicious that a judge won’t hesitate to keep the case alive.

Recent case:
Minor league umpire Clark Davis, 52, sued for age discrimination, alleging that he was fired because of his age. Davis claimed the league director told him “we’re going to give the younger guys a chance.”

The director argued that he never made that statement. He said Davis was dismissed because he’d played in a Las Vegas poker tournament, which looked bad, and that his performance had deteriorated in recent years.

The league’s problem:
It never did performance evaluations, so it couldn’t prove his performance had slipped. Plus, other umpires weren’t disciplined for gambling. All this, the judge concluded, was evidence that the claimed reasons might have been manufactured to cover up a case of age discrimination. A jury will decide. (Davis v. Atlantic League of Professional Baseball Clubs, No. 07-5023, DC NJ, 2009)

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