Responding to Sticky HR Situations

December 7, 2016

Addressing workplace issues – including sticky HR situations – quickly and efficiently is important to employee retention, productivity, and to avoid and/or reduce potential liability to the company.

Some issues and concerns are common and frequent, and they are quickly and routinely addressed. The quandary occurs when you’re presented with a sticky HR situation that you have not previously encountered.

What do you do when:

  • an employee complains that her supervisor told her not to record overtime?
  • a supervisor advises you that he/she has been threatened by a subordinate employee?
  • an applicant complains about access to the application process based on disability or based on age?

How would you address those issues and other topics of concern in today’s constantly changing workplace?

Failure to adequately respond, or an improper response to a sticky HR situation may be interpreted as a lack of concern for employees or result in liability. To ensure that sticky HR situations are adequately and appropriately handled, the following analysis should be applied:

  • Identify the issue, i.e., obtain all of the facts related to the sticky situation;
  • Determine whether the situation concerns a violation of company policy;
  • Determine whether the situation involves protected employee status;
  • Whether the company has dealt with the same or similar situation in the past and how it was previously addressed;
  • Determine whether the company policy and practice is in conformance with the law; and
  • Determine whether a report to appropriate federal or state agencies or law enforcement is required.

Changes to the law and workplace practices applicable to sticky HR situations are rapidly occurring. Today, a boilerplate list of do’s and don’ts will not cut it and will likely run afoul of the current Department of Labor, EEOC and NLRB agendas. 

Contributed by Maureen Rouse-Ayoub, Chair of Bodman PLC’s Workplace Law practice.