Fenwick litigation and employment practices partner Sheeva Ghassemi-Vanni spoke with Protocol about the legal and practical issues employers should consider before putting employees on a performance improvement plan (PIP).

Ghassemi-Vanni told the publication that, ideally, there should be “some level of progressive discipline” before you even get to a PIP. “Earlier intervention is the best medicine.” Also, PIPs can be the right performance management tool for certain situations, “but they’re just not the right tool every time.” Where they are not a good tool, she said, is for behavioral issues—for instance, being rude to or not getting along with a co-worker—because it’s not practical to set objective or measurable goals to address this issue. In those cases, Ghassemi-Vanni noted that she steers clients toward a documented performance discussion instead, as a way to alert the employee of the issue and to create a record.

She also stressed the importance of setting goals that are not “too aggressive,” while also being sure to not set the bar too low, because that would set an unrealistic expectation of performance going forward.

Ghassemi-Vanni told Protocol that if you know that you’re definitely going to fire someone, a PIP is often not the right choice. Ghassemi-Vanni encourages employers to ask themselves this question: If the employee blows the PIP out of the water, would you still fire them? If the answer is yes, a PIP is not a good idea, because “legally and optically, you’re going to be in a much worse position.”

The full article is available on Protocol.

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