Mendoza, Anjelica M (2020-09). The Role of Performance Appraisal in Litigation: An Updated Analysis of Case Law. Master's Thesis. Thesis uri icon


  • Performance appraisal (PA) is a cornerstone of human resource management as it is the primary way organizations document and track how well personnel are performing on the job. Despite their widespread utilization, there have been a growing number of calls to eliminate PAs from business practices. This is potentially problematic as PAs are often the only documentation an organization has of an employee's performance. Conceivably, without such documentation, it would be difficult for an organization to legally defend personnel decisions. The purpose of this study is to provide an updated review of the role of PA in employment discrimination litigation. This review examines the extent to which five PA content recommendations (e.g., PA based on a job analysis) and nine PA process-based recommendations (e.g., standardized procedures across employees) for organizations appeared in 462 U.S. Federal Courts of Appeals cases within the last five years (2014-2018). While the recommendations are well established in the research literature, the study found that all of the content recommendations and many of the process recommendations did not appear or were seldom mentioned within the case narratives. Only four of the previously supported process recommendations were associated with an increased likelihood the courts will find in favor of the organization: the use of multiple raters, more performance documentation, the opportunity for the employee to review the ratings, and the opportunity to correct performance deficiencies. An expanded examination beyond Title VII reveals that the previously supported PA recommendations may not be as impactful in current discrimination claims. Analyses of several previously unexamined hypotheses also demonstrate that an organization's sector and the presence of satisfactory PA evidence are related to the likelihood of case decisions. Results have significant practical implications concerning what organizations should do to maximize the legal defensibility of their decisions. Limitations of the study and recommendations for future examinations are discussed.

publication date

  • September 2020