Employee performance issue can create multiple problems if managers don’t document the problem.
A recent court case in Northern Iowa shows, once more, the importance of addressing and documenting performance issues with employees. In this case the defendant was Eric Holder Jr., the Attorney General of the United States.
The case revolved around an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s office in the Northern District of Iowa. This Assistant U.S. Attorney sent a memo suggesting that her supervisor, the U.S. Attorney in the office, made statements that might be discriminatory relating to age discrimination and that were hostile to workers in the office over the age of 40.
The 53-year-old employee complained that after sending the memo she was subjected to surveillance, her work was scrutinized, she was reprimanded, threated with suspensions and was subject to a proposed involuntary transfer to an office 250 miles away. Her employment was eventually terminated and filed an age discrimination lawsuit as a result.
The U.S District Court reviewed the employee’s complaint and found that her performance issues might have been sufficient to support termination, but because of lack of action by the supervisor, there was a question as to whether the reasons for discipline or termination were a pretext to these actions. The court allowed the case to go to trial.
While this case may ultimately end up in the favor of the employer, the problem here is that the poor performance of the employee was not previously addressed. If the court agreed that her performance was weak enough to support termination, the employer could, and should have, dealt with those issues long ago and either helped the employee to improve her performance or disciplined and terminated her.
Failure to promptly address and document performance issues ultimately allowed this age discrimination claim to be filed and moved forward through the courts. The defense costs, inconvenience to the management team and potential for damages should be a good wake-up call to all business owners.
The costs of poor performance, both operational and financial, along with potential issues as seen in this case, far outweigh the time and effort to address performance issues promptly and effectively.
If you have an employee that is not performing to your expectations, contact BCN Service’s HR department to discuss the best way(s) to address the issue. Actions could include coaching, performance improvement plans (PIP’s), discipline or other options specific to the situation.
Jeff Walsh, Partnership Manager