Here’s a warning label to slap on every manager’s desk: “Supervisors who pad employee performance reviews can be harmful to a company’s legal health.”

A supervisor who did just that got a Michigan employer in big trouble.

The employer, facing a business downturn, decided to lay off six employees out of 51. One of those chosen was on FMLA leave at the time.

Mindful of the danger of FMLA retaliation, the employer waited until the employee was back at work, then broke the news. She sued anyway, alleging she was fired because she took legally protected leave. And a federal appeals court took the employee’s side.

The problem? The employee’s supervisor gave her a bad review for purposes of the layoff, just three weeks after her annual performance rating came out as “exceeds expectations.” The court said the sudden downturn looked suspicious, and might indeed have been connected with the leave.

The supervisor explained that she routinely graded employees higher than they deserved, to avoid unpleasantness. That lame explanation didn’t get very far with the court, and it shouldn’t get very far with savvy HR people either.

Cite: Kutcher v. K-Mart

photo credit: Werwin15

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