Performance appraisals can play a key role in the trajectory of your career, and in many instances, a pay increase is directly tied to your employer’s evaluation of your performance. That’s why it can be painful to receive a less than ideal appraisal. But if you think that your employer’s evaluation of your work is unjustified, you may want to consider if there were ulterior motives in giving you a bad review, such as discrimination.
Discrimination during the performance appraisal process
When your employer evaluates your performance, it should do so based on standards that are as objective as possible. Yet, all too often, supervisors and managers allow their personal biases to get in the way. Some companies still use subjective criteria for assessing performance. In these situations, workplace discrimination can be blatant, such as when a worker is criticized for their protected status, or the discrimination may be part of a larger, more systemic issue, such as when all workers in a protected class are rated lower than their co-workers.
What sorts of discrimination can occur in a performance appraisal?
Just about any kind of discrimination that you can think of. Since state and federal laws protect workers from discrimination in all aspects of their employment, they receive those same protections when being assessed for job performance. Therefore, you should be on the lookout for each of the following when you’re reviewing your performance appraisal:
- Being penalized for taking Family and Medical Leave: Many workers have the federally protected right to take certain kinds of leave. For example, a woman who gives birth to a child is typically able to take several weeks off from work to recover and bond with her child. If, as a result of taking that time off, the woman is penalized in her performance appraisal, she has likely been discriminated against. The same could be said for someone who is penalized for taking time off to recover from a serious injury or medical procedure.
- Workers of a certain age are treated differently: Age discrimination is real, but it’s sometimes hard to catch. If you’re an older worker and suspect that you and other older workers at your company have been treated differently, the culmination of your performance appraisals may paint the picture of age-based discrimination.
- Your appraisal mentions your race, ethnicity or religion: Your race, ethnicity, and religion should be irrelevant to an assessment of your job performance. So, if you received a less than desirable performance appraisal and there’s mention of any of these characteristics, you may need to start considering why the characteristic was even brought up.
While you might be able to correct some performance appraisal issues by discussing them with your supervisor or your human resources department, it may be too late for that. This is especially true if you’ve been subjected to an adverse employment decision based on your performance review, like demotion, reassignment, or termination.
Is the time right for you to take legal action?
If you’re in that position, you need to start considering whether legal action is warranted. After all, if you’ve been discriminated against, you might be able to recover compensation for the harm that you have experienced as well as reinstatement to your position, if that’s something that you want.
But before diving into the legal process, you have to know the strength of your evidence and how best to approach your case. An attorney who is well-versed in these kinds of employment law cases can help you analyze your situation and craft the compelling arguments that you need to support your position.