Some employers require periodic meetings with their workers to discuss how well they're doing their jobs or problems they may be having. Performance reviews can be productive, but problems can creep up when they're not done properly. Employers should also make sure they're kept confidential.
Honesty Is the Best Policy
In many cases, supervisors conduct performance reviews, not the business owner or employer. A review puts the supervisor in a position of judging the performance of workers face-to-face. This can cause hard feelings that last beyond the meeting, affecting workplace morale and productivity. Some managers downplay performance problems for this reason or give praise for work that doesn't really deserve it.
Because employee performance reviews can ultimately be used as evidence in lawsuits, employers, supervisors and employees should always be honest in their comments. Reviews should accurately reflect the quality of employees' work.
Neither employees nor employers should rely entirely on performance reviews to document a work relationship. Many companies hold reviews only once a year. To create an accurate employee file, both employees and employers should regularly add notes and documentation in addition to annual reviews.
For example, if an employee has a grievance against a supervisor who is abusive, the employee should make a complaint and make sure it's included in the employee's file. If a supervisor or employer must discipline an employee, the details of the incident should be noted as well.
Reviews Can Affect Discrimination Claims
Inaccurate reviews can leave a company open to discrimination complaints or lawsuits. For example, if an employee receives glowing reviews but then is fired, the employee can claim that the termination was the result of something other than poor performance.
Documentation of a problem with the employee's work performance can prove that discrimination was not a factor. Alternatively, an employee's mention of an abusive boss or coworker could be used as evidence to prove discrimination.
References Based on Reviews Can Be Risky
Employers can be legally liable for giving past employees bad references. Even when an employee file includes consistently bad reviews, and even if an employer was terminated for those reasons, sharing this information with a potential employer asking for a reference can generate a lawsuit.
Performance reviews should not be shared, especially negative ones. They should be kept confidential. Employers could be charged with defamation of character.
An Employment Lawyer Can Help
The law surrounding employee performance reviews and their role in litigation is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact an employment lawyer.