HR Administration

Why Performance Reviews Matter in Employment Litigation

By Jon Hyman

Jan. 22, 2015

According to Employment Law 360, a federal judge has indicated that he will likely deny the motion for summary judgment Deutsche Bank intends to file seeking the dismissal of a sex discrimination lawsuit brought by one of its former vice presidents.

The lawsuit alleges that bank “mommy-tracked” the plaintiff, a 14-year employee with a strong performance history, and ultimately fired her. Her lawyer argued to the court that her strong history of performance reviews demonstrates pretext in the bank’s decisions regarding her performance. In response to the bank’s counter-arguments about her performance (which included an argument that her positive reviews resulted from an “easy grader”), the judge responded, “It’s all sounding really fact-y to me.”

Folks, performance reviews matter. They not only matter in managing your employees during their employment, but they also matter in defending lawsuits about their employment. If you plan on terminating an employee on performance, you need to have the goods to back it up. What should you be doing before the termination? Checking the reviews to make sure the paper trail supports the poor-performer argument. If it doesn’t, you best have a solid explanation as to why. Otherwise, your termination will start to smell not only “fact-y," but also possibly “pretext-y.” The last thing you want in a discrimination case is for your decision to have the scent of pretext.

Jon Hyman is a partner in the Employment & Labor practice at Wickens Herzer Panza. Contact Hyman at JHyman@Wickenslaw.com.

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