When is a Verizon PIP a Layoff?

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Verizon is one of the few companies which did not conduct layoffs after the pandemic hit, but could they be using PIP (Performance improvement plan) as a means to let go of some of their workforce? It wouldn’t be the first time we’ve seen major corporations use this tactic. Earlier this year Forbes & Business Insider confirmed the rumors which had been circulating within ExxonMobil circles for months. It appears ExxonMobil, in an attempt to “cut more workers without using traditional layoffs,” had adjusted its performance evaluations in order to justify more job cuts. 

According to Forbes, “Exxon categorizes its employees based on their performance and employees at the lowest rank ‘Needs Significant Improvement’ are at the risk of being terminated.” The “Needs Significant Improvement” category is also referred to as “NSI”. Oftentimes employees in this category are offered a “Performance Improvement Plan” or PIP, which is essentially a severance offer to leave the company. ExxonMobil expanded the NSI category to include 8% or more of salaried workers in the US. Verizon has not been accused of broadening the pool of people who receive PIPs but there is some speculation among Verizon employees that receiving a PIP essentially means you will be let go from the company. One employee posted on thelayoff.com asking “How much trouble am I in after being put on a PIP? Is it a guaranteed firing and they’re just covering their bases or do I truly have a chance to still come out of it with a job if my numbers improve?” A similar sentiment has come from ExxonMobil employees posting on the same site.

In ExxonMobil’s case there was some strategic value for ExxonMobil to cut jobs through performance reviews as opposed to laying people off. Business Insider states that, “by not calling job cuts layoffs, companies can avoid a requirement to give employees and state officials 60 days’ notice under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act.” They also get the benefit of selling future prospects on the idea that their job is stable if they perform well.

In a statement to Business Insider, a spokesperson for ExxonMobil denied that the company’s intention was to “reduce headcount through [their] talent management process,” stating that employees who find themselves in the NSI category are provided opportunities to improve their performance and keep their jobs. 

Before Coronavirus hit the United States, ExxonMobil mandated that just 3% of employees were required to be in the NSI category. As of April they expanded that category to potentially include 8% of employees. One former employee told Business Insider, “Don’t let the performance metrics fool you. It was definitely a layoff.”

Prior to April the NSI category did not include new employees.  That policy was amended and now anyone with less than 2 years experience in the NSI category will be asked to leave the company. Those in the NSI category who have been with the company for more than two years will have the option to complete a “performance improvement plan”. Several ExxonMobil employees raised concerns about a clause in their “Waiver & Release” documents stating that they, “…will not apply to for future employment with XOM,” (“ExxonMobil Corp. Layoffs – TheLayoff.Com”). According to an article from skloverworkingwisdom.com these “No Re-Apply” clauses are fairly common and are, “nothing more than an attempt by employers and their lawyers to avoid future lawsuits by employees who were paid severance.”

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