The Honorable James R. Spencer of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia has highlighted for employers the importance of the employee evaluation process. Adkins v. Coventry Health Care, 3:04-cv-00825-JRS, (E.D.Va 2005) Judge Spencer dismissed a gender discrimination case without a trial where generally favorable performance evaluations also evidenced a consistent pattern of deficiencies in the employee’s management style. After counseling regarding her management style failings, a terminated employee brought a gender discrimination claim against her former employer. The employer defended on the basis that the employee’s performance failed to meet the employer’s legitimate expectations. The employee argued that her overall-positive evaluations evidenced that she had met her employer’s expectations. In a June 2005 Opinion, Judge Spencer stated “favorable remarks in one aspect of a job do not automatically mean that [the employee] was meeting her employer’s legitimate job expectations as a whole.” In this case, it was the employer/supervisor’s thorough performance evaluation of the employee that the Court relied on in issuing a pretrial Order dismissing a gender discrimination claim.
Employers take heed and counsel your supervisory employees to create a thorough and accurate record regarding their subordinates’ performance. Stress to your managers that they must be candid in assessing their subordinates’ strengths and weaknesses. It is crucial that an employee’s failure to meet legitimate requirements or expectations of the job be documented and relayed to the employee in a constructive manner. Candid and thorough evaluations will protect employers from meritless discrimination claims. Failure to do so will jeopardize employer’s ability to effectively defend a discrimination claim.
For more information regarding best employment practices and defense of discrimination claims contact Mary Elizabeth Davis.