Defense in age discrimination lawsuit undermined

by on December 15, 2008 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Info Center

Termination may have been justified, but firm’s own records hurt its case

If managers at your firm don’t take performance evaluations seriously, beware: When a worker files a lawsuit after being terminated for poor performance, the judge will dig deeper into her performance than what the employer documented right before the termination.

Right results, mixed results

Jessica Platero, a woman over the age of 40 and protected under ADEA, lost her job thru a reduction in force. Platero’s employer based its selection decisions on an assessment process called Right Way, Right Results (RWRR). The employer’s HR department administered the process.

Platero’s scores were quite low. She was characterized as not being a team player and of having a “not-my-job” attitude. According to the report, Platero was resistant to change.

After the reduction in force, Platero filed a lawsuit under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. In her age discrimination case, she displayed copies of her direct supervisor’s most recent evaluations of her performance – which contrasted sharply with the RWRR report.

According to her supervisor, Platero was supportive of her teammates, knowledgeable and productive.

A court sided with Platero. Whether her supervisor had been overly kind in order to spare her embarrassment, or the RWRR had missed the mark, was undetermined. The employer’s own inconsistent records and its lack of a simple explanation doomed its defense.

Cite: Platero v. Williams Field Services, U.S. Court of Appeals, 10th Circuit, No. 03-2167, 5/27/04.

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