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Beware the careless employee review

Annual or semi-annual employee reviews can be helpful in documenting worker issues to justify actions you might take, and in protecting yourself against potential lawsuits by disgruntled workers. They also can help your workforce identify ways to improve its productivity and professionalism.

But if you go about the review process the wrong way, you may turn what you view as a shield against employment suits into a sword for terminated, transferred or demoted workers. That’s because they can use employee reviews as evidence to show you treated them differently from another worker with similar qualifications and that you did so based on their race, religion, ethnicity, gender, disability or other membership in what’s known as a protected class.

This is why it’s important to have an employment lawyer to audit your review process and help you create a review policy to ensure that all reviews back up your assessments with meaningful performance metrics.

For example you want to make sure a review shows not only how many projects an employee completed, but whether they met or exceeded expectations or whether they fell short and why. It’s best to have criteria that are as objective as possible. That way, if an employee is justifiably passed over for a promotion in favor of someone else and claims you discriminated against them based on their membership in a protected class, you have evidence to help counter the allegations. If, however, your documentation is vague and subjective, it provides fuel for the employee.

Additionally, you want to make sure your reviews are consistent. For instance, do employees with similar responsibilities have different supervisors? Make sure your managers are provided specific, objective evaluation criteria and are trained on how to use them, and that you’re documenting such training. That way, the reviews provide a meaningful comparison not only for helping you make personnel decisions but to demonstrate to a court that you’re treating employees fairly.

Finally, it goes without saying that all reviews should be written, dated, signed and kept on file. Talk to an employment lawyer where you live to find out more.


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