Rachel Berthold, a former senior manager at Google in Dublin, Ireland, worked for Google for a number of years before she was dismissed in 2012 after she was judged by her line manager to be under-performing in her role. After being dismissed, Ms Berthold made a claim in the Employment Appeals Tribunal for unfair dismissal, asserting that she had been procedurally and substantively dismissed by the organisation.
The case came before the Employment Appeals Tribunal last week, with Ms Berthold giving evidence that she had been treated unfairly when her competency had been ranked by her line manager at Google. She gave evidence that Google had a “unique” system of ranking the performance of its staff worldwide, with line managers having to rank staff and then fit their performance into a “bell curve” used to assess the performance of all staff. Ms Berthold claimed that the use of the bell curve to measure staff meant that a staff member always had to get a low score of 2.9 so that the staff member could be placed at the lowest point on the bell curve; the rankings of staff members would therefore be adjusted by senior managers so as to ensure conformity with the bell curve. Ms Berthold said that on the occasion that she was dismissed in 2012 she was the unfortunate staff member whose score was adjusted, and that she was dismissed as a result.
The Employment Appeals Tribunal ruled in Ms Berthold’s favour in her claim for unfair dismissal, although they dismissed a claim for failure to pay notice pay (ruling that she had been paid in lieu of notice). The Tribunal commented that Google had not “considered any other option than termination” and “was not satisfied that fair procedures were used.” Ms Berthold was awarded 110,000 euros for the loss of earnings that she sustained during that period.
Chris Hadrill, a specialist employment solicitor at Redmans Solicitors, commented on the case: “This case demonstrates that employers must follow a fair procedure when dismissing employees for capability reasons, with that fair procedure encompassing informing the employee if it is believed that they are underperforming, and giving them time and guidance to improve their performance. The Tribunal found in this instance that Google had not carried out those necessary steps.”