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Are performance improvement plans used to hide discrimination?

On Behalf of | Feb 16, 2023 | Workplace Discrimination |

You’ve been in your position for a while, and you’ve always prided yourself on doing a good job. Up until recently, it seemed like your employers valued you – if your old performance reviews are any indication.

Recently, however, something has changed, and you think you know why. Maybe your cool new boss seems to prefer younger workers, or maybe there’s clearly some resentment because you recently took maternity leave – or maybe you sense some friction because you just revealed a medical condition so that you could ask for reasonable accommodations.

Whatever has happened, your performance reviews suddenly sank, even though your performance is unchanged. The next thing you know, you’re being hauled into a meeting with management and human resources and handed a “Performance Improvement Plan” (PIP) to sign. You’re told that the PIP is a tool or a roadmap designed to help you regain your good standing with your employer.

PIPs are often a precursor to termination

If you think your employer is planning to illegally fire you and using the PIP to cover their discriminatory actions, you’re probably right. PIP plans are, without a doubt, made to be failed. Here’s how:

  • They often set unrealistic goals and expectations that cannot possibly be met.
  • Many of the goals may be subjective and somewhat intentionally vague.
  • Complying with the requirements of the PIP can be time-consuming, which is only likely to erode your workplace performance.
  • They are often unclear and give no real guidance on what you actually need to do to meet the goals they’ve set.

Finally, the same people who create your PIP are the evaluators of whether or not you are successful. If you’re already being unfairly reviewed, the odds are high they’ll be equally unfair when your PIP is reviewed.

Workplace discrimination is illegal, no matter how hard an employer tries to disguise it. If you believe you were deliberately placed on a PIP as a pretext so that you could be wrongfully terminated, you have every reason to fight back. Experienced legal guidance can help you plan your next move.


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