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Importance of Employee Performance Appraisals

by The Human Equation, Inc. on 9/18/2008
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Some of my mid-level supervisors have a habit of hastily and inattentively preparing performance appraisals for employees they supervise. Might their carelessness eventually prove harmful if an employee terminated for cause files a discrimination lawsuit against my company?

Yes. Several federal laws make it illegal for an employer to discriminate against an employee, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. Under such laws, an aggrieved employee may file a lawsuit to recover potentially significant damages from a former employer, and, in some of these lawsuits, the employee's performance appraisals may be the most significant pieces of evidence supporting his or her case. Supervisors who do not take seriously their responsibility to complete performance appraisals properly may place their employers in jeopardy of either losing a discrimination lawsuit or may increase the difficulty of successfully defending against such a lawsuit. If a supervisor automatically gives all employees average or above-average grades and gives little thought to each employee's actual job performance, then a company's assertion that the employee was in fact terminated for cause may ring hollow with a jury. Similarly, if a supervisor routinely gives other employees below-average grades, then the company would be forced to explain to a jury why these employees were not terminated for the same reason as the plaintiff.

By allowing employers to identify which employees are doing a good job, which employees need to improve, and which employees must be terminated for performance-related reasons, job performance appraisals serve an important purpose in any organization. If a supervisor is considering terminating an employee because of poor performance, then appraisals of the employee's work, or other documentation of his or her inadequate job performance, should reflect the poor quality of the individual's work. When supervisors fail to evaluate employees' work honestly and appropriately, they not only set a bad example and damage employee morale, but they also place their organization in greater jeopardy of losing a discrimination lawsuit.

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