The HR team at many businesses has much more responsibility than might appear on a description. For one thing, it may have to act as a mediator when solving disputes. This is potentially a grey area. Sometimes the arguments can be between coworkers, and other times it can be between an employee and the company itself. In both cases, the HR leaders must understand when making decisions about disagreements or other, more complex issues like favoritism, discrimination or harassment, there are legal problems to keep in mind. Often the HR team is the point of contact when an employee makes a charge against the business or another employee, and this is where HR can either do a good job at resolving the issue or drop the ball and open the door for lawsuits.
How to handle simple complaints
According to the Houston Chronicle, complaints about unfair treatment or poor working conditions are relatively easy to handle in terms of human resources solutions, so long as the proper due diligence is performed. It must be remembered that keeping good records of what was discussed is imperative in the event that the employees are not satisfied with the company's response and choose to sue. The best thing to do in the case of something more serious, such as someone complaining that doing data entry is giving him or her repetitive stress injuries, is just to ask a lawyer for advice.
More complex issues
When it comes to discrimination or harassment, then a lawyer must absolutely be involved because the situation now involves interpreting laws and working through evidence. Everything that applied to the more simple cases also applies to more complicated and involved matters. It is especially important to take detailed notes and to thoroughly investigate every claim to ensure that the company can't be sued for ignoring a problem.
What can go wrong
For an example of a company that made an error of HR judgment recently, CVS built a small note into one of its training modules that asked employees to click the yes button and agree to preemptively give up their rights to sue. They must also commit "not just to go to arbitration instead of court, but to go to arbitration as a single individual party (where the focus will be on your claim) and not as part of a class or collective or representative action," according to Before Its News.
In order to opt out of this, employees were told to send a letter to a P.O. Box address in Rhode Island.
CVS was widely chastised for this decision, which puts its own rights ahead of workers' rights. Companies should always treat their employees as human beings, and never try to remove the freedom to sue if the worker really wants to do it.
Instead of using legal tricks, it is better to make a safe work environment where everyone feels satisfied with their jobs. Making HR the first choice to turn when people feel troubled is the safest, more legally and ethically sound choice a company can make if it wants to avoid a lawsuit.