Performance Improvement Plans are effective in more ways than one!

Recently, we received a claim response from an employer indicating “Poor Performance” with regard to a salesman who had been terminated. Comments provided indicated that he had been on a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) which required him to take his company issued laptop home with him. On the date the decision to discharge was made, the salesman had called out sick, and when the company went into his office, they found his laptop hidden in his desk drawer. The claimant was fired for violating the PIP. The claim was returned to the state as a discharge for misconduct. The claimant had been warned – via the PIP – of the requirement to take his computer home with him each night in an effort to help him meet his sales goals. Evidence that he failed to do so clearly existed. When questioned by the state, the claimant denied knowing he had to take the laptop home and alleged co-workers often left theirs in their office. The signed PIP was crucial to the employer’s case. The form clearly spelled out each and every objective the salesman was to meet. 

In addition to bringing the laptop home, it required him to make 50 cold calls a day. Had the employer audited his calls and found he failed to do so, the discharge could also have been for deliberate misconduct rather than simple poor performance. The audit results could be used as proof the claimant was failing to make the necessary calls and to avail himself of the process designed to assist him in improving his sales.
The state found the employer’s requirement to be a reasonable expectation for his position. The salesman’s actions were determined to be intentional. The fact that the requirement was in writing and notified the employee that failure to meet the PIP initiatives would lead to disciplinary action up to including termination led to disqualification of benefits. Lesson learned for the employer. Their initial reaction to write the claim off as “Poor Performance”, rather than for what it really was: discharge for misconduct, led to thousands of dollars in benefit charge savings! Employers are reminded to carefully analyze the details of a discharge before responding to your agent by categorizing a claim as simply “performance” related. If some act of misconduct is driving the performance issues, dig deep to determine what it really is. Perhaps the employee is scrolling Facebook on their computer for hours or taking unlimited personal breaks! And the time away from their work is affecting their work production. Clearly document future expectations in a PIP and require the employee sign it. It may take some time and effort to uncover the hidden misconduct, but in the long run, the savings will be worth the work! The law will not reward employees for their intentional job neglect. And since word often travels fast in a community or social network, it may discourage others from seeking benefits in the same manner.