Court slams HR department for unfair performance review

Company ordered to pay $20,000 in punitive damages
||Last Updated: 04/08/2003

When an employee suffers dire consequences as a result of an unfair performance appraisal, the HR department is as much at fault as the manager who gave the appraisal. In a recent British Columbia Supreme Court decision, the HR department’s failure to advise a manager ended up costing the company $20,000 in punitive damages, in addition to damages for wrongful dismissal.

Donald Marlowe worked for Ashland Canada Inc. for four-and-a-half years as a sales manager. Each year, he exceeded his sales targets. Nevertheless, in his final performance appraisal, his manager gave him the lowest possible overall rating. Many of the allegations and criticisms in the appraisal were false.

The motive for such a “harsh, vindictive and malicious” review, according to Justice I.H. Pitfield, was to deny Marlowe a bonus and to force him to quit. In fact, Marlowe continued to work for Ashland until he was fired, allegedly for cause.