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Probationary Periods/Performance Evaluations/Terminations

If we are an “at-will” employment do we have to give a 90 day performance evaluation? If so and the person is not able to perform, can we let them go even though they are still in the 90 day period?

At-will employment means the employer can terminate the employment relationship with or without cause or notice. Employers are generally free to adopt at-will employment policies and most employees are presumed to be at-will. However, a few states require employers to have just cause to terminate an employee. So, it’s important to be aware of any applicable law in your state.

There is no requirement to provide a probationary period or performance evaluation solely because employment is at-will. Still, both are good ideas.

Probationary periods are a set timeframe, usually 60-90 days, during which employees receive extra supervision and training in their jobs either as a new hire/transfer or due to a performance problem. During the probationary period employees are essentially on notice that they must learn the duties of their position or face disciplinary action (i.e. termination). The downside to probation periods is that a poorly worded policy may imply that employees have the entire time frame to learn the necessary skills and will not face the possibility of termination until the end of the probationary period. But, a carefully worded policy will eliminate this risk.

Following a probationary period, employers often conduct a performance evaluation to review the skills and abilities of employees during the time frame. Performance evaluations also include ongoing recommendations to the employee and establish future goals.

If an employee is not performing up to the standards of his/her position, it’s best practice to document the employee’s wrongdoings and any additional guidance or training provided to help the employee. Remember, the purpose of a probationary period is to give employees time to learn new skills and job duties.

It’s common in some industries to wait until an employee completes the probationary period to terminate him/her. Reason being, by waiting the full time period employers ensure employees are given ample supervision, training, and notice to correct any issues; thus, if an employee can’t adequately perform their job duties in that time frame than the position isn’t a good fit for them. But, in most cases termination is acceptable as soon as the employer has good reason to believe the employee is unable to perform the duties of the job. Again, how the probationary period policy is worded is very important to confirm the at-will doctrine and establish expectations.


This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 16th, 2017 at 2:19 pm and is filed under
Hiring and Staffing, Termination, Workplace Management.
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