Performance Improvement Plans May Salvage Sticky Employee Situations Indicates Noted Business Attorney Deborah Barron

Law Firm Newswire



Sacramento, CA (Law Firm Newswire) January 2, 2014 – Most Americans have heard about the crack-smoking mayor of Toronto, Canada, Rob Ford. A performance improvement plan may be what is needed.

“Questionable behavior in the workplace and an individual’s fitness to perform their job is a reality today in many companies across the globe, Canada included,” pointed out noted Sacramento business attorney Deborah Barron. “In situations like this, many employees feel they may continue working without going for help of some kind, be it medical or psychological. To address this difficult scenario, human resource experts are developing Performance Improvement Plans (PIPs).”

PIPs assist managers in modifying a worker’s performance and/or behavior, by providing detailed written guidelines that must be followed to correct issues and/or strive for improvement. Supervisors must sit down with the individual in question and outline workplace deficiencies, document them and discuss what is needed to rectify the situation. The worker is handed a written plan, complete with what is expected of them and various guidelines to follow in an attempt to move forward. More often than not, the individual is placed under close supervision to encourage improvement in their on-the-job performance.

Should the worker not follow the guidelines, there are consequences for not living up to company corrective standards, which are included in the plan the employee receives. “There are often a series of progressive disciplinary steps taken and the final one may be termination for cause. These steps must be clearly spelled out in any document a worker receives and that employee should also discuss such documentation with a competent business lawyer. Just because they may need to work under the auspices of a PIP does not mean they are required to give up any of their legal rights,” added Barron.

A PIP is not always the right solution for every company, as they do have their drawbacks in that they may be counterintuitive to the goals of a business. More so since U.S. courts have ruled in a number of cases that businesses must live up to extremely high standards prior to firing for cause. Given that the courts have stated companies must be vigilant and diligent in how their workers are treated, a PIP may best be used in limited circumstances where it is obvious a worker is capable of being redirected.

“PIPs are not to be used by a business to get rid of problem workers by not providing proper notice of termination or not offering pay in lieu of notice. If that happens, the worker has a cause of action for wrongful dismissal, whether or not they may have been having behavioral or performance issues,” Barron stated.
While the mayor of Toronto, an elected official, may continue on in an attempt to salvage his reputation and credibility, a company does not need to allow such largess to a perceived deficient worker. If a worker demonstrates behavior/performance issues that need to be corrected, the company has the option of putting that worker on a PIP or firing them, legally.

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