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How to Respond to a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP)

Your boss asks you to come to a meeting, but does not provide an agenda. Strangely, the meeting is scheduled for a conference room instead of the boss’ office. When you arrive, a Human Resources (HR) representative is present, along with your boss. HR takes control of the meeting, explaining that your performance is not meeting expectations. HR provides you a document, called a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP), which identifies the concerns with your performance. The HR representative explains that the PIP is designed to help you improve your performance, but warns you that the company make take further action if you do not satisfy the PIP’s expectations within 30, 60 or 90 days. The HR representative asks you to sign the PIP.

What do you do?

First, do NOT sign the PIP. Explain that you were not expecting to be confronted with allegations of poor performance and that you will need a reasonable period of time to review the document. If the HR representative states that you are not signing the document to express agreement with the allegations, but just to acknowledge that you got a copy of the document, hold the line by stating that you still need time to process the conversation and to review the document. Politely state that you are feeling pressured and that you would prefer the opportunity to review the PIP privately after your shift.

Second, immediately contact a lawyer. Over ninety percent (90%) of PIPs are not designed to help the employee succeed. PIPs are a clear cut signal that the company plans to fire you at the end of the PIP. Thus, unless you are in that small population (10%) in which the PIP is legitimate and actually designed to help you stay with the company, you have a limited amount of time (30/60/90 days) to respond before you are terminated.

Third, create a highly detailed response to the PIP. This response should be immediately shared with your lawyer. This response should include the names and job titles of the relevant people and it should respond to each and every allegation in the PIP. If you can demonstrate that the PIP contains bogus information, explain how or why the information is false, including the identification of witnesses or documents that will help prove the allegations are bogus.

Can a lawyer save my job? No, but in many situations, the lawyer can buy you some more time. While a lawyer cannot get you years of job security, a lawyer can often delay the inevitable termination decision for another 2-6 months, depending on a variety of factors. If you provide your lawyer a detailed response to the PIP, the lawyer can send a compelling response back to the company and its lawyers that will commute your sentence, giving you more time to find another job.

Perhaps more importantly, your lawyer can also negotiate a severance package that will give you a financial cushion as your transition out of the company, which would include a provision that will allow you to collect unemployment benefits. The amount of the severance depends on numerous factors, including your pay, your tenure with the company, your ability to demonstrate that the PIP is bogus, and your lawyer’s ability to identify the Company’s exposure through litigation. The lawyers at Davis & Davis, P.C. have obtained over ten million dollars ($10,000,000.00) in severance packages and settlement agreements for its clients.

If you get a PIP, it is a sure fire signal that you need professional guidance. The employment law specialists at Davis & Davis, P.C. have helped hundreds of employees who were issued PIPs and were about to be fired without a severance package.
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