Employee Rights on a Performance Improvement Plan — What to Know — ManageBetter (2024)

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It is important to know your rights as an employee.

That way, should a complicated situation arise at work, you won’t be trapped in the dark.

For many workers, being put on a performance improvement plan is a scary and confusing concept. They may be unsure of what it means for their job or whether the PIP is being handled legally by their company.

Read on to ensure you know your rights when it comes to PIPs.

Is a PIP an adverse action?

Employees are protected by law from “adverse actions” taken by their employers against them in retaliation.

This includes things like being demoted, having salary cut, or being fired.

In most courts, being put on a performance improvement plan is not recognized as an adverse action.

It is difficult to prove that the PIP is being used in a disciplinary way. A legal claim against your employer based only on a PIP is not likely to go through.

Signing the PIP notice

The employer will ask for the employee’s signature when notice of the PIP is given.

Some people fear that signing is an admission of their poor performance.

Declining to sign may be interpreted as refusing to cooperate on performance improvement, and therefore, grounds for termination.

You should sign the PIP as requested, but follow the guidelines below.

  • Take time to thoroughly read through and assess the document before signing.

  • If something in the PIP document is false or incorrect, the employee should bring it to the attention of HR or upper management, with evidence.

  • Only sign a statement if it is simply to acknowledge you have received notification of the PIP.

  • If the wording at all suggests that you are agreeing with the assessment of poor performance, put a disclaimer under your signature: “Signature indicates I have received this document. It does not indicate agreement to the terms within.”

Can I refuse to complete the PIP?

Refusal to comply with a PIP will not work in your favor.

This could be seen as an act of insubordination and failure to complete work assigned to you. These are considered reasonable grounds to terminate employment.

If you are interested in keeping your job, you are better off accepting the PIP and working to achieve the goals set out for you.

Completing the PIP

Employees should make a real effort to complete the tasks and goals laid out in the PIP.

Even if you don’t agree with the decision, a PIP is work assigned by the employer, and refusing to act on it gives them a legitimate reason to take disciplinary action or terminate employment.

Keep a detailed record of interactions with manager and HR throughout the process.

Be smart about how you handle your communications. For example, do not audio or video record any conversations without consent. You can, of course, document all interactions in writing.

Appealing the PIP

According to Oregon University HR, employees can’t dispute the contents of a PIP under normal circ*mstances.

The exceptions are in cases where there is suspected discrimination, retaliation or other problematic behavior.

If you have strong reason to believe your manager is unfairly placing you on a PIP, gather any relevant evidence and appeal to HR or upper management.

Termination or resignation

Your organization can and will use your PIP documentation and results against you.

If you have not met the expectations laid out in the plan within the given time frame, you need to be prepared to lose your job.

For most people, a PIP is a signal to begin looking for opportunities elsewhere. It can be stressful and demoralizing to undergo the PIP process.

In some cases, a company may negotiate a severance package for employees who decide to resign on their own.

If you believe that you are being treated unjustly by your employer, be sure to seek counsel with an employment attorney as soon as possible. You may be eligible for unemployment benefits if fired and should consult with a legal expert.

*Disclaimer: Always consult with a lawyer to determine your legal rights. This article is not intended as legal advice and should be used for reference only.

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Employee Rights on a Performance Improvement Plan — What to Know — ManageBetter (2024)
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