In the office, the human resources department is your first line of defense when faced with employment discrimination, workplace bullying and harassment, and a slew of other work-related issues. But what if HR is the bully or refuses to help you? This makes for a difficult and sometimes awkward situation, but fortunately, you have options. Here are clear steps you should take if your human resources department is unhelpful or if it is part of the problem.
What to Do When HR is the Problem, or They Refuse to Help
- Follow Company Procedure
You always want to give your company an opportunity to resolve the issue. If the workplace issue is with someone other than human resources, make sure you consult your company handbook and file a complaint with HR, even if you're sure they won't help. Keep a record of the steps you have taken, and save all related emails so you have a paper trail proving that you have taken appropriate action and HR has refused to help.
Your company may have procedures in place to handle a complaint against HR or escalating an issue beyond HR. If this is the case, follow those procedures as outlined in your employee handbook. There may be specific instructions for how to report an HR manager to someone at a higher level in the company, or there may even be an anonymous tip line for reporting illegal activity.
Again, make sure you leave behind a clear paper trail. If you eventually want to take the issue higher, you will need to have established that your company was exhibiting a pattern of behavior that is unacceptable or even illegal.
- Report Illegal Activity to a Relevant Government Agency
If you are facing illegal discrimination or the behavior you are trying to report is otherwise illegal, then you may want to go outside of your company for help, and any complaints that you have filed can be used as evidence. This is where leaving a clear paper trail comes in handy.
Whistleblowing is when you report illegal activity at your workplace, and this is a protected act under both federal and California labor law. This means that if you report illegal activity on the part of your employer or any coworkers, it is illegal for the company to take adverse action against you.
You have several options available to you for reporting illegal activity on the part of your company. If you feel that you are in an unsafe work environment, then you may want to file a complaint with the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA). You can also consult an employment lawyer who can help you sort out whether you have a case against the company.
Bear in mind that not all workplace issues will require legal help, and you should consult an experienced employment attorney to make sure the treatment you are experiencing is in fact illegal.
- If All Else Fails, Move On
If the activity exhibited at your workplace by a coworker or HR is not an illegal activity, then you may want to consider moving on from your company and searching for work elsewhere.
For example, if you have made suggestions for how to improve the company, but they have not been taken under consideration by your manager or HR, then this is not illegal activity. However, it is your prerogative to decide whether to move to a company that works differently or is more open to employee suggestions.
Similarly, if you believe that your workload is too heavy and you have voiced your concerns with HR, they may just refer you back to your job description. If this is the case, you can search for a job where you feel that your workload is more manageable.
However, the situation is different if you feel that your workplace suggestions or requests are being ignored because of a protected trait, such as your race, gender, or place of origin. If this is the case, then you should reconsider taking legal action against the company for workplace discrimination.
Do you need an employment lawyer? The Hennig Ruiz Los Angeles employment attorneys can help you resolve harassment and discrimination issues if HR fails to do its job. Contact us for a free consultation.