Three Reasons to Talk to HR About Employment Issues
For some employees, their employer’s Human Resources (HR) department is, at best, ineffective at handling most workplace issues and complaints. There may be a variety of reasons for this: The HR employee may not be properly trained, equipped, or staffed to deal with the many employment-related issues that arise in a particular workplace. Or, perhaps the HR department’s focus is not on resolving workplace conflicts but on minimizing the legal exposure of the company. Whatever the reason, when a workplace issue arises, it is tempting for employees to bypass the HR department and attempt to resolve the issue themselves. Here are three reasons, however, why it may be more beneficial to talk to hr about employment issues before taking matters into your own hands:
You create a “paper trail” putting your employer on notice. Filing a notice or claim regarding a workplace problem with your employer’s HR department will, at the very least, put your employer on notice that there is a problem in need of a resolution. Employers who know or have reason to know of workplace violence, discrimination, and/or harassment are required to take reasonable measures to address these occurrences and can face legal penalties for failing to do so. Filing a claim with HR makes it that much more unlikely that the employer can successfully claim it did not know of a problem.
You demonstrate an effort to avail yourself of workplace remedies. In sexual harassment lawsuits, for example, courts might tend to want to see that an employee attempted to allow his or her employer an opportunity to resolve the problem before stepping in and correcting a harassing workplace. Usually, courts are satisfied in these situations if a claim is filed with HR in accordance with company policy but nothing comes from the report. Filing your report or claim with HR, then, is simply a step you should complete in order to advance your claim. (As an aside, completing this step also helps make your employer’s lack of response even more unreasonable. An employer who deliberately ignores a worker’s valid complaint will have a hard time justifying its actions as opposed to an employer who does not know about the complaint.)
You give your employer a chance to correct the situation. There is, of course, the chance that your employer will take notice of your complaint or issue and take appropriate remedial action. While you may wish to take legal action against your employer to “teach him or her a lesson,” a lawsuit against your employer can be surprisingly costly and time-consuming. Not only this, there is the chance you might lose your lawsuit. Finally, even if you prevail in court your employer may be able to terminate your employment anyway. For these reasons, it may end up being more beneficial to you if your employer were to resolve the issue itself, and filing a complaint with HR allows your employer the opportunity to do so.
Of course, there are situations in which it may not be appropriate to notify HR of your workplace issue or concern. Where, for example, the HR worker is the person who is harassing you or who is causing the workplace issue, to talk to hr about employment issues will be ineffective and can result in further harassment or discrimination. Similarly, where the head of your employer is the problematic person, an HR complaint will likely do more harm to your situation than good. However, where a fellow coworker or customer is causing your workplace troubles, filing a complaint with your HR department will, in most cases, produce more benefits than drawbacks – even if the HR department does not act upon your claim.