How did HR get so powerful?

This is my first blog! What topic should I discuss? So many bad apples in the basket, but the worst? HR, hands down. This gluttonous department has maneuvered it’s way to the most important department in any organization. With their sidekick, the legal department, they can do almost anything they want.

Back in the 70’s, my best friend and I graduated from university and moved on to our respective careers. She graduated with a degree in International Business and sought employment at Chemical Bank in New York City. I visited her early on, and toured Manhattan while she worked. One day I met her at work for lunch and she gave me a tour. Forty years later, I remember a couple things she said. 1) The lowest department in any business is Personnel (now known as Human Resources) and 2) Women won’t get promoted if they wear pants.

So how did HR get so powerful? Litigation. More so, the settling out of court, and a hush order on the lawsuit. No court precedence is set. Instead of corporations learning their lessons and correcting their treatment of employees, over time they figured out ways to get around future litigation. That’s why you sign your life away when you’re hired on. A restriction on your ability to sue. It’s why some companies don’t allow their supervisors to give anything but subpar performance evaluations. It’s why practically everything is a “write up”. It’s why you go through corrective action. They want to load your file with bad performance documentation so that if the need arises, they can terminate you. Who holds these files? HR. Who writes and enforces these policies? HR.¬†And as they say, information is power.

So now HR is invading your private life. They’ve hired social media experts to scour the sites for misbehaviors. At first, it started off with checking for derogatory comments against the company. They apparently got away with it in the courts. So they’ve expanded their claws to any pic or comment that can be taken wrong on just about anything. Holding a loose glass of champagne at your sister’s wedding, showing off your bikini at Waikiki, and commenting on legal “weed” in Colorado are all subjects to termination now. Their logic? Those behaviors can reflect badly on the company. And, you know, their reputation is everything. But isn’t that stalking an employee? Wouldn’t that fall under harassment? Surely it’s got to be an illegal practice.

My opinion? Litigate and litigate immediately upon termination. You may as well hurt them in their wallets. If employees don’t accept these invasions (and until legislation addresses this), then it is the only way you can make them rethink their policies.

Many employment attorneys take cases on contingency. Meaning essentially no money up front. There might be copy and courier service fees, but if you continue with the suit, that generally comes out of the settlement. Of course, it depends on the size of the company you were employed with. The bigger the company, the deeper the pockets and the more attractive to attorneys. Most offer free initial consultation.

I know you may be embarrassed and humiliated. I litigated. We settled. It would have been more, but I didn’t hire an attorney until the three year statute of limitations was nearly up. You can go back three years from the point of filing. So if you wait 2&1/2 years to file, you only have the last 6 months of your employment to bring a suit against. There are exceptions of course, but in those cases you must establish a pattern that allows you to include older records. If the corporation is so worried about their reputation, they’ll want to make your lawsuit go away. They won’t want to wait the two years it often takes to get to trial. Lots of negative exposure. They’ll settle. My satisfaction was knowing that not only did we settle, but they had to pay for an expensive corporate trial attorney.

If you’re a stellar employee, you’re not free of HR. I’ll address this in a future blog.

Thank you for joining me with my first blog! I’m glad I have a place to vent with logic and analysis. Feel free to comment. Your Corporate Watch





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