Performance Improvement Plan – Do I Still Have a Wrongful Termination Claim? 8 Protected Classes

May 6, 2024

Performance Improvement Plan – Do I Still Have a Wrongful Termination Claim? 8 Protected Classes

A Performance improvement plan could be the first step to termination

A performance improvement plan could be a sign your employment is on the verge of ending. 

An employee may be put on a performance improvement plan if their employer believes they are making too many job-related mistakes or deficiencies. 

A performance improvement plan lays out specific details or goals for an employee

For example, imagine a situation where Josefina works in sales. She hasn’t been replying to all customer chats, and even ignores customer phone calls. 

Since the behaviors are out of Josefina’s character, her supervisor works with her on a personal action plan to help improve her work tasks. This may include details such as:

  • Setting goals on Monday and emailing them to her supervisor.
  • Having daily meetings with her supervisor to discuss her daily activities.
  • Shadowing another employee to help with her schedule/routine during a shift.
  • Having a weekly meeting with her supervisor on Friday to discuss what goals were or were not achieved for the week. 

Generally, a performance improvement plan won’t come as the result of major accomplishments. Failure to succeed with a performance improvement plan oftentimes results in disciplinary action, including termination.

Some even believe a performance improvement plan is the first step in getting rid of an employee. Company’s can use them as a way to document mistakes and develop a case for firing a worker. 

Think back to Josefina’s situation. Imagine that her employer was recently moved under the umbrella of another branch within the company, and the new branch believes the sales team could be improved.

Despite constantly finishing at or near the top of sales within her team, a new supervisor in the department undercuts Josefina’s performance. Where mistakes were previously used as learning opportunities, she is now scrutinized and eventually put on a performance improvement plan because of an error that was actually the fault of someone no longer with the company.

In this example, it’s most likely Josefina’s employer wants to terminate her. They are covering their tracks in the event of termination in order to avoid a potential lawsuit.

It’s tricky, seeing as California is an at-will employment state. At-will employment means an employer can terminate an employee at any time for any reason, unless that reasoning is illegal.

A Performance improvement plan that leads to termination may not have been wrongfully executed

Generally, a performance improvement plan cannot result in a wrongful termination claim. However, in the event of a company using a performance improvement plan to wrongfully terminate an employee, there may be a case for discrimination

The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission states that an employer can discriminate against someone by treating them “differently, or less favorably, for some reason”.

Employees are protected from unfair treatment and wrongful termination because of:

  • Race 
  • Color 
  • Religion
  • Sex (this includes gender identity, transgender status, and sexual orientation) 
  • Pregnancy 
  • National origin 
  • Age (40 and older) 
  • Disability 

Employers may use a personal action plan as an excuse to wrongfully terminate an employee on the basis of any one or more of the aforementioned reasons. Doing so can result in an employee lawsuit.

An employee that believes they have been wrongfully terminated could build a claim with evidence such as:

  • Any emails or email exchanges between the plaintiff and their company that could document the situation.
  • Similarly, any text messages between the plaintiff and the company.
  • Employee track record showcasing discrimination, their success as an employee, etc.

If you believe you were put on a performance improvement plan and were eventually wrongfully terminated because of discriminatory reasons, finding a Los Angeles employment attorney may be the next step.

The Southern California employment attorneys at C&B Law Group are prepared to help victims who have been wrongfully terminated. 

All employees are entitled to a safe space for work that is  free of discrimination.

If your employer violates your rights by taking advantage of a performance improvement plan, our Burbank employment attorneys are ready to fight on your behalf. 

Call us now for a free consultation to learn more about what C&B Law Group can do for you.

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