Performance evaluations should be honest and complete, or not done at all

McAfee & Taft labor and employment attorney Paul Ross was featured in The Oklahoman discussing a recent case in which employee performance evaluations played a key role in how the company was able to defend itself against discrimination charges.

The Boeing Co. sold one of its facilities to a new company and was asked to recommend the best employees to retain for the new staff, based on their job performances. One employee who was not selected to be retained claimed it was due to his age, not his work capibility. With no direct evidence of the age discrimination able to be proven, the employee then argued his recent performance evaluation contridicted the employer’s recommendation.

“The employer stated the plaintiff had ‘limited skill,’ performed with ‘low quality’ and ‘low productivity,’ and wasn’t necessarily a team player,” Ross told The Oklahoman. “The problem was the plaintiff’s most recent performance indicated he ‘met all expectations’ in every category, including skill, productivity, quality, and ‘working together’.”

Differences between the employee’s written evaluation and the justifications later given by the employer can create a real credibility problem and a jury would be allowed to conclude that the company discriminated against the employee even without direct evidence, Ross explained.

“Managers must be trained and permitted to invest the time it takes to carefully and thoughtfully review employees with honest and complete feedback versus blanket evaluation. Otherwise, it’s best not to do evaluations. If an employee’s performance starts to decline after a positive evaluation, it’s critical the employee document the problem.”