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How Your Employer’s Performance Goals for You May Help Prove Your Discrimination Case in New Jersey

If you’ve been in the workforce long enough, you’ve probably found yourself in a position where you felt like your employer expected you to make actual miracles happen… perhaps even weekly or daily. Feeling that pressure is one thing, but when your employer gives you patently unrealistic performance targets, that’s another thing entirely. That’s especially true if your employer uses your failure to meet these impossible goals as the basis to fire you because of your age, race, gender, etc. When those things happen, your employer may have engaged in impermissible discrimination and an experienced New Jersey employment discrimination attorney may be able to help you in obtaining substantial compensation.

The law actually gives employers wide latitude in setting performance goals for employees, but that wide latitude is not completely a blank check.

The recent age discrimination case of a medical sales professional working for a major international pharmaceutical company is a good example. By 2010, R.R. was a sales director for the company. By 2016, R.R. and his team had begun to fail to meet sales quotas, and R.R.’s supervisor placed him on a “performance improvement plan.”

In early 2017, the employer terminated the director, replacing him with a man roughly 10 years his junior. R.R. was in his mid-50s at the time.

R.R.’s complaint clearly laid out the framework of a viable discrimination case. His complaint asserted that he was in a protected group (advanced age), he was terminated, and he was replaced by a younger person outside his age group.

Here, the employer asserted that it fired R.R., not because of his advanced age, but because he failed to meet the sales targets set for him and his team.

The Goals Set for You Must Be Within Your Personal Control

One very important thing that the court opinion in R.R.’s case highlighted was the limits on employers’ discretion when it comes to setting up performance goals and standards for an employee. The employer cannot assert that its legitimate reason for firing, demoting, or otherwise punishing an employee was the worker’s failure to meet expectations when those expectations “have nothing to do with his individual performance” or were otherwise beyond the employee’s individual control.

That was the area that this employee attacked successfully. As the court stated in ruling for R.R., the employee raised a viable case that he was assessed “based on factors that did not pertain to his own performance” and were targets that a reasonable employer could not sincerely have expected him to hit.

This kind of success (the court’s denial of the employer’s motion for summary judgment) is a very important step in any discrimination case. First off, you cannot get to a trial if your case is dismissed on summary judgment. Second, many employers will not begin making any truly serious settlement offers until they have sought, and failed to obtain, summary judgment.

No one should be forced out of their job simply because a supervisor came to view them as “too old.” If you’ve encountered age discrimination at your job, reach out to the experienced workplace discrimination attorneys at Phillips & Associates. Our attorneys have many years of helping people just like you and are ready to get to work on your case. Contact us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation.

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