At first glance, nothing seems fishy about a poorly performing employee being fired.
But when a court looked more closely at the worker’s performance reviews, it found evidence of bias.
Set up to fail?
Ronald Pineda worked at Abbott Laboratories in California. He began to receive poor performance reviews and was eventually fired.
Pineda sued the company, claiming he was really fired because of his age, but a district court dismissed his case, citing the performance reviews.
But on appeal, the 9th Circuit reversed this decision. It said too much weight was given to these performance reviews, which upon closer examination, were subjective.
The 9th Circuit also pointed out the testimony of an executive, who claimed she was told to “manage out” older employees by creating performance problems and assigning them “unattainable goals.” Pineda was set up to fail, the court said.
Both the reviews and the exec’s testimony were enough for the court to wonder if age was the real reason Pineda was fired.
Regardless of the circumstances, employers must proceed with caution when firing protected workers.
Cite: Pineda v. Abbott Laboratories, 10/20/20.