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Placed on a “Performance Improvement Plan”?

Have you received consistently positive reviews and bonuses but suddenly find yourself placed on a “Performance Improvement Plan”? Your first thought might be, “What’s going on?!” Likely, changes about your position are being discussed by upper management.

What Is a Performance Improvement Plan?

Employees at all levels occasionally fail to perform as they should. Good managers help by discussing the deficiencies with the employee. Sometimes the manager will provide a written plan on how to improve, i.e., a “Performance Improvement Plan,” typically called a “PIP.” But if you have been placed on a PIP that came out of the blue with no discussion or is next to impossible to perform, it could be that someone in the company wants to get rid of you. That person is documenting the file to protect the company against possible claims. If this is your situation, you definitely should be concerned and need to take action.

Is a Performance Improvement Plan Required Before Terminating an Employee?

The general rule of law in Texas is based on “employment at will,” meaning that one’s employment arrangement can be terminated for any reason at any time by either party, so long as it is not an unlawful reason. An employee can leave at any time, and an employer can terminate the employee at any time. No PIP is required; no document is required. Furthermore, based on a landmark case, Hathaway v. General Mills, employers can change the terms and conditions of one’s employment at any time provided that the employee is given unequivocal notice of the change beforehand. If the employer equivocally notifies the employee of the changes, the employee’s continuing employment will constitute acceptance of the new conditions as a matter of law.

You should be on high alert if an unfounded, unnecessary PIP suddenly appears. I have handled probably hundreds of PIP matters, and there are practical ways of getting a bad situation turned around.  If this happens, don’t wait. Address the situation immediately, including seeking the advice of a good employment lawyer. You need someone “in your corner,” someone who is objective. Do not let the situation continue to grow worse. You probably are headed out the door if you do that.

What to Do?

Do not suffer in silence and wonder what is going on. You may be the last to find out what is happening.  If you have been placed on a Performance Improvement Plan and have questions, please contact me right away!

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