Some occupations subject employees to periodic performance evaluation. While some employers adopt formal systems for performance management, others appraise employees informally, using loose and indistinct criteria. Regardless of the employer’s method, a performance evaluation is ideally where a boss, manager, or some other employer evaluates the individual on their ability to successfully perform job duties.

However, problems arise when performance evaluations are influenced by factors outside of your control or when employers abuse their managerial authority by conducting evaluations in a discriminating way. In some cases, an employer’s system for performance evaluations can have a disparate impact on employees.

What Is a Forced Ranking System?

Many large companies are engaged in a management system in which the employers conduct routine performance evaluations and then use the results to rank their employees against each other depending on the results. This method of management is commonly referred to as “forced ranking system,” as it forces employers to rank their employees against each other from “best” to “worst.” Similarly, employers are compelled to identify a percentage of their employees as unsatisfactory performers. One of the strongest criticisms of the forced ranking system is the resulting competition between employees. A key component of the forced ranking system is the practice of rewarding or promoting employees at the top of the rankings and punishing or firing employees at the bottom

How Might a Forced Ranking System Affect Me?

If someone’s place of employment adheres to a forced ranking system and their supervisors conduct the evaluations in a negligent or discriminatory way, it could be subject that person to unfair treatment in your workplace. Consequently, this system creates hostility among co-workers as each employee continually attempts to look better than the next. Employers and managers justify these systems by arguing that it brings out the best in their employees. However, the reality is that forced ranking systems can be abused by discriminating against certain employees in the evaluation process.  This is often accomplished by using overly-subjective criteria for evaluating an employee’s performance.

Are There Any Protections against Performance Evaluation Discrimination?

Yes. Just like an employer cannot discriminate in other aspects of your employment, an employer may not discriminate when conducting performance evaluations. There are federal and state anti-discrimination laws which employers must adhere to throughout the evaluation process. Some laws include:

  • Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
  • The Equal Pay Act (EPA)
  • The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA)

What Should I Do If I Have Been Subject to Performance Evaluation Discrimination?

If you feel that your performance evaluation was conducted in a discriminatory manner, you should speak with an discrimination attorney who can advise you of your legal rights and any applicable laws. A lawyer can also advise you of whether your rights were violated and what remedies are available to you. It is important that you retain all documentation of your evaluation, especially a copy of the evaluation itself, if available. Likewise, it would be a good idea to retain any other documents or correspondence between you and your employer which contain any  informal assessments of your performance, as they may help your lawyer assess your case.