After working as a paralegal for over 4 years at the same firm, I was put on a PIP for poor performance. I believe this plan was instituted in part due to my age (55) and as a way to make me quit. I signed the plan even though I didn't agree with it as I felt I had no choice. During the 45 day plan we were to meet each week to review my progress. I worked very hard to improve but throughout the plan the work environment became more and more hostile. The last two weeks of the plan I received no feedback what so ever. When we met on the final day of the plan I was told that they "dropped the ball" on managing it and had decided to extend the plan for 5 more weeks. I told them that that was not my fault and I should not be penalized and refused to sign. I was fired the next work day.
Yes, you can be terminated for refusing to agree to a PIP. It is, essentially, a form of insubordination.
If you believe you can prove it was not your performance, but your age, that motivated the PIP, you would likely have an age discrimination case. However, proving age and not performance was the reason will be very difficult. It would be prudent for you to locate and consult with an experienced employment law attorney as soon as possible to explore your facts and determine your options. I would suggest you look either on this site in the Find a Lawyer section, or go to www.cela.org, the home page for the California Employment Lawyers Association, an organization whose members are dedicated to the representation of employees against their employers.
Most employment attorneys who practice this area of law work on a contingency basis, meaning you can hire an attorney without paying any money until the matter results in a positive outcome for you. Many advance all the costs of the litigation as well. Do not let fear of fees and costs keep you from finding a good attorney.
Good luck to you.
This answer should not be construed to create any attorney-client relationship. Such a relationship can be formed only through the mutual execution of an attorney-client agreement. The answer given is based on the extremely limited facts provided and the proper course of action might change significantly with the introduction of other facts. All who read this answer should not rely on the answer to govern their conduct. Please seek the advice of competent counsel after disclosing all facts to that attorney. This answer is intended for California residents only. The answering party is only licensed to practice in the State of California.
If you are concerned about receiving Unemployment Insurance, I highly recommend you apply for benefits immediately. California bases their unemployment on time of discharge, and waiting could mean you lose a week's worth of wages. Additionally, your claim is based on the amount of money you've made over the last 18 months. If you would also like to bring a claim for age discrimination and wrongful discharge, I recommend you still apply for your benefits. At least during the suit, you would be receiving benefits. I have included the link to the online application for Unemployment Insurance benefits. Only the Economic Development Department can determine if you receive benefits. Good luck.
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