Each year, the performance cycle for Colorado’s state employees ends on March 31 and workers receive their evaluations in April. As stewards, our coworkers will surely come to us with questions about the performance review process and how to ensure its fairness.
The performance review process is detailed in the Performance Management portion of the State Personnel Rules (Board Rules 6-3 through 6-6) and the dispute process is detailed in Rules 8-83 through 8-87.
Here are a few basic rules you need to know to understand the performance review process.
- There must be a clear, concise plan written for each employee. The word “plan” implies that there are expectations, tools to succeed, and the scope of work detailed within the plan.
- Evaluations are based on the past year’s performance, good or bad, so if an employee had a corrective action and it has been corrected, it will come up again in the performance evaluation. If this is the case, employees should take great care that there is language in the evaluation that states that the issue has been addressed in the past year’s performance, if indeed it has. If it has not, that could lead to further corrective or disciplinary action.
- If you receive a “needs improvement” performance rating (a score of 1), you should receive a performance improvement plan (PIP) or a corrective action, but not both at the same time (the PIP must be issued first). It is a progressive system, so reviewers can’t use two steps at once or jump to the second step unless the first step has first been utilized, unless there is an issue so egregious that they jump to higher levels of discipline.
- Unless it results in a corrective or disciplinary action, performance evaluation scores cannot be grieved. However, if you disagree with how the evaluation process was applied to your case, there are ways to dispute it. Employees can challenge the technicalities of how the performance management system was administered, including lack of a plan, lack of a mechanism for fair and clear evaluation, failure to provide coaching and feedback. If an employee just doesn’t agree with the rating, that must be addressed in the internal stage.
Additionally, if you receive a good performance evaluation it can actually help you in future disciplinary actions. For instance, you can use a performance review in an R6-10 hearing as evidence of good work. If your performance review score indicates good work ethic and practice it can be used in defense against a disciplinary action.
Similarly, if an employee has been getting negative performance feedback during the year, it is extremely helpful to pin down the appointing authority or supervisor and make them articulate what it would take for the employee to succeed. Technicalities are the only way in the personnel system to challenge performance plans, but that still doesn’t erase the stigma that an employee is not performing up to standards. Whether those standards are unfair, or whether the measurements are not clear, all should be discussed and fleshed out with supervisors.
And don’t forget to sign up for Lobby Day, which will take place on Monday, March 21. Lobby Day is an important event during which union members can talk directly with their state Senators and Representatives about issues that affect state workers.