Home » Jobs, employment, training » Trouble at the office: When to go to HR, and when not

Trouble at the office: When to go to HR, and when not

By Suzanne Lucas MoneyWatch February 3, 2014, 8:28 AM

I get a number of emails from people who have problems at work, go to HR and end up worse off than they were previously. Why is that? Shouldn’t HR step in and fix problems?

Yes, and no. There are times you should absolutely ask and expect HR to help you out, but there are other times when going to HR may not be your best move. Here are some guidelines to help you decide:
When you must go to HR
  • If there is illegal conduct with respect to how you are being treated in the workplace.  If your manager is discriminating against you because of your race or national origin or some other protected area — you should go to HR and file an official complaint. HR is legally bound to investigate the situation. If your complaint is found to be valid, they are required to act. If you do have such a complaint to make, don’t do it casually. Write it up and send it in an email, copying your home email address, with the subject line “Formal Complaint of Sexual Harassment,” (or whatever your complaint is).
  • If you want to take advantage of a government protection. For example, if you’ve just been diagnosed with cancer, you’ll want protection from the Family Medical Leave Act, and you should go to HR to take care of the paperwork. If you have a disability and need accommodations, you need to formally request the accommodation from your Human Resources department. Your manager will be involved, but HR will know what to do and how to do it.
  • If you notice anything else illegal going on. Health and safety violations? Regulatory violations? HR isn’t necessarily the right place to go, but they will know what you should do. They will also know how to document and get your complaint pushed to the top. Lots of companies have anonymous hotlines for things like this, but if your company doesn’t, and you don’t know who to speak to, come to HR.
  • You have a problem with or question about your company-provided health insurance. HR manages those plans. We have contacts and can sometimes fix things. Come, we’ll help. Read more…
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