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Get a bad performance evaluation? Ask PEF to help you appeal it

By SHERRY HALBROOK

Did you know that you can grieve a poor performance evaluation?  If you feel the evaluation is unwarranted and unfair, contact your PEF field representative for help. Just do it right away, because you only have 15 days to file the appeal.

PEF is not notified when you receive an unsatisfactory evaluation, so it is up to you to alert your field representative and request their help.

While a successful appeal of a poor performance evaluation isn’t guaranteed, you can win them if the evidence is on your side.  PEF Field Services is often successful in pursuing these appeals that initially go to a three-person commission at the agency level.  If the appeal is denied at this level, it can be appealed to a statewide three-person commission.  You have 15 days from the day you receive the denial of the agency-level appeal.

Inconsistent reviews

In one such case downstate, a member with more than 35 years of service and a history of good evaluations, received a poor evaluation from a new supervisor and asked for PEF’s help in appealing it.

PEF field representative Robert Wright, who helped this member, cited several important factors in the member’s favor.  For instance, the member received a favorable evaluation for the first six months of the year, but then was given a negative evaluation for the full 12-month period.

The negative evaluation cited a work backlog, but Wright showed that the job always involved what appeared to be “backlogs“ based on the standard workflow process for that unit.  Additionally, no work production quota existed for the position.

Yet another factor in this case was the inclusion of untimely documentation to support the negative evaluation.

“I was able to get the appeals commission to exclude emails, memos and other documents from periods before or after the work period at issue,” Wright said.

PEF’s help valuable

Reversing this evaluation from below effective to effective enabled the member to receive $2,700 in performance/longevity pay.

“This member was very happy and said she is more than glad to have a union,” Wright recalled.

When contacted, the member said, “I am very grateful to my PEF representative, Mr. Wright, particularly for his strategizing and his moral support.”

Why do ratings suddenly change?

Wright said he sometimes receives requests for help from more than one member appealing unsatisfactory evaluations from the same supervisor, even though those members each think they are the only one who received a negative evaluation.  In such cases, the members may all mention apparent bias based on race, gender, age or some other common factor.  And while an underlying bias or personal animus may be present, each appeal must be argued based on the evidence.

Just as keeping careful records and evidence can be helpful in disputing a notice of discipline, they may be useful in some performance appeals as well, provided they are relevant to the time period at issue.

“It’s always a good idea to hold on to documents and emails praising or commending you and your job performance,” Wright said.  “They can come in handy.”

Very tough reviews common

Upstate, PEF field representative Ed Bradley said he has encountered a situation where members at one unit of a state agency get more negative evaluations than the members in all of that agency’s other units combined.

Bradley said he has had success in getting 80 percent or more of the unsatisfactory ratings overturned, many simply because the evaluations contained technical flaws. Overturning an evaluation on merit is more challenging, he said, but may still be possible.

He pointed out that performance evaluations are meant to help the employee recognize areas in their job performance that need improvement.  So, an employee whose performance is rated effective at the six-month review, should not then be rated as less than effective at the end of the year based on factors that were never brought up in the earlier review.

Bradley said he is often able to challenge a bad review because it simply does not make sense when you look at the facts.

“In one case the supervisor said the employee made too many mistakes and jeopardized the employer’s ability to meet a federal standard, but I was able to show that she was 98 percent accurate and the federal standard required just 75 percent accuracy,” Bradley said. “She dealt with more than 2,000 cases and had made only a couple of mistakes.  Saying she made too many errors just doesn’t make sense.  It was subjective.

‘Such illogical reviews can happen if the supervisor has personal animus toward the employee, or successive reviews are done by different supervisors,” Bradley said.

Like Wright, Bradley encouraged members to keep good records related to their job performance.  He also advised members who choose to appeal on their own to “make a list of all of your arguments against that evaluation and submit them in writing.  If your agency-level appeal is denied, you can appeal it to the statewide level.  You should submit all of your arguments in writing, but focus on just your top three in the 15 minutes you will be given to make your oral argument.”

Is it worth the hassle?  Yes, and especially when you can have the professional advocacy of your field rep.

Receiving an unsatisfactory performance review can cost you substantial money over time, especially if it occurs early in your state service, because it disqualifies you for a $2,700 performance (longevity) award.

“It has a domino effect that can add up to $7,000 to $12,000 over your entire career,” Bradley said.