Knowing how to handle being placed on a performance improvement plan may mean the difference between keeping your job and being fired. Under 5 U.S.C. Chapter 43, if an employee’s performance is rated unacceptable, the agency must provide the employee a reasonable opportunity to demonstrate acceptable performance. This opportunity to improve is typically referred to as a “performance improvement plan” or PIP. If the employee does not demonstrate acceptable performance during the PIP, the agency must take action, including proposing to demote or fire the employee. If you are placed on a PIP, you want to ensure that you do all you can to protect yourself if the agency decides you failed the PIP. What follows are some general rules to follow if you are placed on a PIP:

  • Perform all the tasks that you are asked to perform during the PIP.

  • Unless directed to do so, do not take on extra tasks or assignments that will not be counted toward the PIP.

  • After the PIP, even if you have not heard whether or not you passed, keep performing your duties to the best of your abilities.

  • If you do not understand the PIP, including tasks assigned, ask your supervisor to explain the PIP and what is expected of you. Keep a record of the conversation.

  • If you are unsure of deadlines, clarify them with your supervisor.

  • Keep a record of all conversations with your supervisor regarding your duties and how you are performing them during the PIP.

  • Periodically ask your supervisor how you are performing.

  • If your supervisor tells you that you are not performing your duties successfully ask him/her for advice on how you can improve.

  • Ask for training if you think that it will help you be able to performance your duties at an acceptable level.

  • If it is not possible to perform a task either because of the amount of time given or because you must rely on someone else to give you information, inform your supervisor.

  • If you need any type of reasonable accommodation, ask for it.

  • Most importantly, keep a record of everything (notes from your supervisor; comments on drafts of documents; notes regarding how your co-workers are evaluated; written work product you produce during the PIP (unless your agency or other rules prohibit you from keeping these records).

These are just a few things to keep in mind as you go through the PIP. If your performance improves to an acceptable level, you cannot be removed or demoted. If your performance does not improve during the PIP, then your agency may propose to terminate or demote you. If you are issued a proposed demotion or removal, you will be given at least 30 calendar days advance written notice and a reasonable amount of time to prepare and present a reply to the proposed notice. You are also entitled to be represented by an attorney in responding to a proposed demotion or removal.

** This information is provided by the attorneys at Passman & Kaplan, P.C., a law firm dedicated to the representation of federal employees worldwide. For more information on Passman & Kaplan, P.C., go to http://www.passmanandkaplan.com. **