Human Resources Is Not Your Friend

One of the most common misconceptions found in the professional and corporate world is that Human Resources (“HR”) departments and professionals were created as a way for employers and employees to work together harmoniously. There’s a nugget of truth to that, but at the end of the day, HR is specifically designed to protect employers from liability. This isn’t to say that you’re completely on your own if you’re facing discrimination, harassment, or wage and hour disputes, but it’s important to understand that what you say to HR can actually be used against you. This post will go over some of the basics of interacting with HR.

What is Human Resources

You have likely encountered human resources at a variety of levels. Most businesses utilize HR services as a full-time staff member, department, or third party through an outsourced company, like ADP or TriNet. Regardless of their formation, they’re often seen as an important resource for employees to settle interpersonal or workplace disputes. Sometimes HR personnel will have friendly relationships with the rest of the staff and casually listen to your concerns as a courtesy or sometimes even as a close friend. As with all workplace relationships, however, you should assume that their employment status may supersede your friendship with them, and it’s their job to look out for your mutual employer. This does not mean that HR employees are terrible people who will never look out for your best interests (after all, we also represent HR professionals who suffer discrimination) but it’s important to establish strong boundaries with anyone at your place of employment; for professional and legal reasons.

HR professionals are primarily responsible for protecting the company’s interests, which are sometimes at the expense of the employee’s rights. They usually have the resources, training, and documentation policies required to put any disputes to rest without incident. They also usually have access to any company-owned computer and all conversations and activities. If you use a company email or messaging system to discuss personal information with other employees, HR may have access to these conversations and use them against you in the event that you file a complaint. For example, imagine you and your coworker use the company messaging service to complain about your mutual coworkers for casual transgressions. One of the coworkers you complain about often actually does or says something that violates policy, and you file a harassment complaint against them. HR may access those conversations and use them to question your judgment and integrity, which will make it difficult to continue having a positive workplace relationship with all involved parties. This means that HR may not always take appropriate action to resolve the issue or may even try to discourage employees from pursuing the matter further.

Reporting With HR

There are ethical and often legal implications for when HR professionals act, well… less than professional, but they’re not required to keep anything you say confidential. As discussed in a previous blog regarding reporting harassment, it’s extremely important that any interaction you have with HR is recorded or documented in some way. It’s a common tactic for HR to request in-person or phone conversations, which makes it challenging to record the discussion legally. However, in the event that this happens, make sure you follow up with your company email and CC or BCC your personal email to rehash and confirm what was discussed in the conversation. Use “message received” confirmation options in your email settings, or continue to follow up daily until you receive a response. Documentation is your best option for legal recourse.

If you feel that HR is not handling your discrimination or harassment complaint appropriately, you can file a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). You have 180 or 300 days (depending on the type of claim) from the date of the discriminatory act to file a charge with the EEOC, which is why having documentation is so important. If you have exhausted all options and you still require resolution, it may be time to reach out for legal counsel. You should never rely solely on HR to protect your best interests. Reporting and utilizing the policies and administrative framework put in place by your employer can be a good option in situations where you genuinely enjoy your work and want to continue employment there. However, not all professional relationships are worthwhile, and it may be best to move toward finding a new place of employment, if possible. In the meantime, even while employed, you have a right to discuss your legal options with an experienced attorney who will guide you through the process and protect your rights. For a free consultation, reach out to the firm of Carla D. Aikens by filling out an online form or calling (844) 835-2993 today.

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