Any company of a certain size is almost certain to have a Human Resources (HR) department. While it may be intimidating at first, especially if one has not worked in an environment large enough to require one, an HR department can wind up being a valuable ally to you, especially if you are unfortunate enough to experience harassment. However, it can also be a part of the problem. It’s important for you to have a good idea of what an HR department can and cannot do for you when facing workplace discrimination.
The First Line Of Defense
Your company’s employee handbook will describe HR as the department in charge of hiring and firing, which is true, but it also governs everything to do with interpersonal relationships between employees and employers. Employee relationships of all kinds come under the purview of HR, and as such, they are expected to not only know what is and is not considered appropriate by company standards, but also what is legally acceptable and what is not.
This is especially important in a state such as South Carolina, which looks to both state and federal law to answer matters involving employment law. A quality HR department, if faced with an employee complaint, will be able to tell which law is the most appropriate to use in accurately assessing and vetting a potential issue. For example, a transgender person who believes they have been mistreated or harassed due to their gender identity would not be citing South Carolina’s Human Affairs Law as the reason, because the SCHAL does not include protections for gender identity. Federal law, however, does.
Making A Complaint
The reason that an employee should be well aware of what their employer’s HR department does is that the reception your complaint receives at HR is often a benchmark for how your employer will choose to handle the matter. HR is often the first place one goes when an episode of harassment occurs. If you are treated well, there is a chance you will not need to take your complaint further. If your employer’s HR personnel listen to you and make you feel heard, the likelihood of mediation or another internal solution is higher than if you are ignored or told you are being “overly sensitive.”
Be aware that if things go poorly, you may wind up being retaliated against. Almost one-half of the charges filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in the most recent fiscal year were filed on the basis of alleged retaliation. In such a case, Human Resources will be the department that you will have to attempt to deal with. Thus, even if you do not receive what you want from your initial contact with HR, it is prudent to not burn any of your proverbial bridges.
Enlist An Employment Law Attorney For Help
While an HR department can be very helpful, it may not be. As such, knowing its capabilities may help you. Having a knowledgeable attorney on your side can also make a difference. Attorney A. Christopher Potts and his employment discrimination law firm are happy to assist you with your complaint and answer any questions. Contact our office today to set up an initial consultation.