EEOC Seal

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission



Tips for Small Businesses

Handling Internal Discrimination Complaints About Performance Evaluations

Despite your best efforts to implement a fair evaluation system and ensure that managers apply performance standards consistently, employees may complain that their evaluations were unfair or inaccurate for discriminatory reasons. For example, an employee may claim that she was given an unwarranted negative performance evaluation because she complained that she was paid less than male colleagues who perform the same work.

Conducting a prompt, thorough and impartial investigation of internal discrimination complaints about performance evaluations and taking appropriate corrective measures when necessary may resolve problems and prevent them from happening again. The following tips may be helpful in this process.

  • Ask the employee to specifically identify her concern(s) with the evaluation.
    • For example, does she object to the overall rating, to particular statements in the evaluation or to actions resulting from the rating (for example, a lower pay raise than expected, a demotion or a transfer of job responsibilities)?
  • Ask the employee why she believes the evaluation was discriminatory.
  • Meet with the employee's manager and other individuals involved in the evaluation decision, if necessary, to discuss the employee's concerns.
  • Review relevant material.
    • For example, if the evaluation was based in part on a decrease in sales or customer satisfaction, review sales data or customer service surveys to determine if they are consistent with the evaluation.
    • If appropriate, review other employee evaluations to determine whether there is any evidence of discrimination. For example, review the evaluations of members of the employee's work group. If employees who have filed complaints generally receive lower evaluations, determine whether those evaluations are justified.
      • This may help you determine whether the manager has consistently applied performance standards and policies to all employees.
  • If you find evidence of discrimination, ensure that the discrimination stops immediately, correct any effects of the discrimination, and prevent it from happening again.
    • For example, if you determine that the employee received a lower performance evaluation than she deserved because she complained about pay discrimination, retract that evaluation. Issue a new evaluation that is consistent with your performance standards and policies, and provide the employee any pay, seniority or other benefits she would have received if she had been treated properly.
    • Consider whether to discipline any managers involved in the discriminatory performance evaluation.
  • If you determine that the evaluation was warranted, inform the employee.
    • It may be helpful to explain the steps you took to investigate the complaint, the results of the investigation, and the basis for your decision.
  • Consider documenting the results of the investigation and any corrective or preventative action taken.

See also:

What should I do if I receive an EEOC charge of discrimination?

Preventing Retaliation Tips

Manager Responsibilities - Treating Employees Consistently

Example - Justifying Inconsistent Treatment