The individuals in the human resources department of any company can don many hats. They’re the people that are typically responsible for employment, payroll, benefits administration, employee training, and other administrative responsibilities. Importantly, they can also serve as the intermediary party between workers and managers when conflict emerges.
The ideal work environment is one where everybody is treated with dignity, tempers don’t flare, and the people with power don’t abuse it. Of course, not every work environment is perfect according to these terms. On a daily basis, employees across the country find themselves facing a situation where they’re being unlawfully mistreated at the workplace– should they always go to HR for assistance?
When you probably shouldn’t go to HR
Before we tackle the main question at hand, employees should be aware that there are times when they should not go to human resources. In these cases, however, it would be unlikely that even a lawyer would take your case. A little effort and self-awareness can save you trouble and heartache at work, after all.
You might not want to file a complaint with HR if:
- You haven’t attempted to solve a non-legal concern (such as somebody’s body odor or humming while working) with a colleague or supervisor yourself before going to HR. Unfortunately, this also includes bullying.
- You’re actually responsible for something, meaning that you need to reconsider reporting harassment or discrimination if your manager is reprimanding you for constantly arriving late or watching cat videos on YouTube throughout the day.
In the latter example, however, it may be worth going to HR if all of your colleagues show up late and watch cat videos on YouTube throughout the day, yet you’re a member of a protected class and the only one getting in trouble.
An argument for going to human resources anyway & speaking with a lawyer
Even if you believe HR’s ability or willingness to deal with a serious employment law-related grievance is void, it may be worth going through the motions anyway. Why?
Because if your company becomes aware of a major problem and does nothing to correct it, their inaction might strengthen your case should you choose to file a lawsuit against your employer. If nothing is done to fix the issue at work after going to human resources, talk to an attorney who can help you hold your employer responsible.
Workers might fear retaliation or termination for making their complaints known, and it’s a completely valid concern. In this situation, you may want to think about talking to an employment law lawyer first before you go to HR.
Your attorney might advise you of the probability that you have a valid grievance and guide you through your next steps. If you endure retaliation or termination for reporting unlawful conduct at the workplace, the silver lining– albeit a thin one– is that those can be further grounds for taking legal action against your boss.
A word of caution: If you decide to interact with human resources before consulting with a lawyer, be mindful that any information you provide could be used against you. It may seem like human resources is doing its due diligence in reporting your claim when actually it may be on a fact-finding mission to uncover information that can torpedo a future lawsuit.
So, should you always go to human resources before calling a lawyer? Truthfully, it depends. Doing so might help you resolve the issue or strengthen your claim if you plan to sue. It may also turn up the heat with your situation at work and make things worse– if you’re wary of filing a lawsuit at all, this could be a big problem.
The effectiveness of the human resources department inevitably boils down to the people who run it and your employer’s interest in avoiding a lawsuit. If you find yourself facing an uphill battle to address violations of your employment rights, it’s probably time to get representation from an Employment Lawyer in Detroit, MI whether you’re comfortable with legal confrontation or not.