Minimizing performance evaluation legal risks.

The goal of every performance evaluation is to identify staff strengths and weaknesses and create a plan for future career development. Employees expect useful feedback on job performance, and an effective performance evaluation system improves employee productivity and a firms profitability.

However, the performance evaluation process can be a virtual landmine of liability, which is why supervisors should approach it with caution.

Following these evaluation guidelines may not guarantee that you or your organization will never be sued on a performance-evaluation-related matter, but they will result in more productive evaluations, thereby reducing the likelihood of a claim, and they will enhance the quality of your defense should a claim be made. For more on this subject, see Performance Evaluations , JofA, Oct.97.

Keep all evaluations objective, honest and well documented.

Type all evaluation responses and comments on the evaluation form as well as on any attachments. Never handwrite anything, especially in pencil.

Do not amend an evaluation so that it differs from the version discussed with the employee or included in the employees personnel file.

Never change an evaluation retroactively without reason and without informing the employee.

Never include comments that pertain to an employees race, religion, sex, physical appearance or personal style in any evaluation documents.

Strictly adhere to the organizations established evaluation procedures, especially as they pertain to the timing of evaluations, who conducts them and how employee input is received and responded to. Document any deviations from procedures.

Have your evaluation policies and procedures reviewed by your attorney, including any subsequent revisions.

Source: Adapted from Management of an Accounting Practice Handbook, published by the American Institute of CPAs.


©1998 AICPA


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