About Human Resources Archives

Human Resources . . . Employee Relations . . . What’s the Difference?

Published on February 26th, 2019 by Alan L. Sklover

Sklover Working Wisdom Controlling Company Risks

Question: Recently, a female colleague reported to my Department Head that she felt she was being harassed. I received an email from someone in “Employee Relations” asking that I meet with her to be interviewed as part of an investigation.

What’s the difference between Human Resources (“HR”) and Employee Relations (“ER”)?

She said she is a lawyer, but that she does not represent my employer. Could that be?

La Vergne, Tennessee

Answer: Dear Jessica: Your question is a very common one. It is wise of you to ask this question because it is always prudent, before you speak with someone about something that may be important, that you try to understand who they are, what they seek, and what their interests may be in speaking with you. Here are my thoughts:
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The Bill O’Reilly Debacle – Its Most Important Negotiating Lesson for Employees

Published on May 2nd, 2017 by Alan L. Sklover

“Without accountability, we cannot expect responsibility.”


From each and every event and circumstance, we can take away important lessons to guide our future actions. Some are obvious, others not. Some are important, others not. Bill O’Reilly’s recent contract termination by Fox News – despite his stellar ratings and very significant contribution to its revenues – offers one lesson for working people that, I believe, stands out among others. And, oddly enough, it has little to do with whether or not Mr. O’Reilly was “guilty as charged.”

This newsletter is less a “letter of news” than it is an observation on a societal change, and employees’ need to consider adapting to address change, in this order:
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Should I Report THIS to HR? – 11 Pro’s and Con’s

Published on October 18th, 2016 by Alan L. Sklover

“The pessimist is disappointed by the direction of the wind.
The optimist is certain it will change.
The realist adjusts the sails.”

– Unknown

ACTUAL CASE HISTORY: This really happened to me on the first day of my second job as an associate attorney:

I was wearing a new suit and a favorite tie that day, but because it was warm and my shirt collar was a bit tight, I undid my top shirt button and pushed my tie up to keep my collar near-closed.

A meeting had been called by the firm’s senior partner to introduce me and two other new attorneys to the legal staff. There were perhaps thirty attorneys sitting in a large conference room. I had been interviewed by the senior partner six weeks earlier, and he had been quite gracious, warm and engaging. He told me something like “Alan, you are clearly the person we want and need for this job.”

When the senior partner arrived, he sat at the head of the large, shiny, wooden conference room table, and began the meeting. Each of the three of us who were on our first day were asked to come forward to be introduced. When I was called, I stood up, walked to the head of the conference room table, stood next to the senior partner, and smiled.

Without saying a word the senior partner moved closes to me, grabbed my neck with his right hand, buttoned my collar with one hand – scraping it deeply as he did – and said, “We button our top buttons here.” As he did so, one of his finger nails scratched my neck quite deeply. He then went on to introduce me. The rest of the day I worked with several small blood stains on my collar and tie. I decided then and there, on that first day, to seek another job at another firm, which I secured about a month later.

Should I have gone to HR to complain? I didn’t do so, thinking only to myself, “Just find a new job and get the heck out of here,” which is what I did within six weeks or so. Though it was many years ago, and standards of conduct have changed, even then it was an unusual departure from commonly recognized standards of acceptable workplace conduct. At least I think so.

LESSON TO LEARN: So many people come to me after an “unusual event” or “bad treatment” at work with the question, “Should I report this to Human Resources?” It is always a hard call to make. Why? Because there are always so many significant “pro’s and con’s” in doing so, or not doing so.

In a perfect world, any kind of misconduct should be reported to those whose job it is to deal with such issues. But, we don’t live in a perfect world. No matter what anyone tells you, what you say to your Human Resources representative will be shared with others, quite possibly the person whose misconduct you are reporting, or his/her managers, or even friends. Though retaliation in the workplace is almost always prohibited by company policies, and often by the law, retaliation in one form or another is so common that you can almost count on it rearing its ugly head in one form or another.

Pro’s: On the one hand, if you report misconduct to Human Resources, there is a good chance the misconduct will be halted, at least in the short term. Chances are pretty good that, at the least, a warning will be given to the person in question, formal or informal. Doing so also gives you certain legal rights, and future credibility if needed in the future. No one can ever say “If it was such a problem, why didn’t you report it?”

Reporting misconduct to Human Resources gives HR the legal obligation to at least look into the report. And, if the misconduct is repeated or gets worse, your employer will have legal liability to you, which they would not have if you failed to make a report. I can’t tell you how many times I have told clients: “It would have been helpful if you had objected to this, or even reported it, in an email.”

Con’s: On the other hand, if you report an incident to Human Resources, the fact that you did so will undoubtedly become known to the person whose conduct you reported or complained of, because Human Resources must communicate with them as part of its investigation. Never, ever, ever think that you can say to Human Resources, “I am reporting this to you, but I want you to keep it confidential.” That is like telling the police the name of a person who you know committed a robbery, and asking them to promise not to speak with that person.

Additionally, reporting an event of misconduct can pour cold water on an otherwise productive relation, either with the person who engaged in misconduct, and perhaps, too, his or her friends. And, too, if someone makes a lot of complaints to Human Resources, their complaints start to lose credibility after a while. Those viewed to be “constant complainers” generally don’t go far or last long.

Why’s and Why Not’s: It is sad, but undeniable: filing a report, complaint or objection with Human Resources can be a risky thing to do. Should it be? Never. But it can be, that is for sure. And doing so when not truly needed may diminish your ability to do so in another circumstance when it is truly needed. Would you believe a complaint from an employee if he or she made a new complaint, about a new person, each and every day, for a year? Of course not. Judicious use of your ability to go to HR is a must.

One thing must be borne in mind: Human Resources representatives are NOT to be presumed to be “on your side.” Their very job description is clear that they are always “on management’s side,” which might or might not be, depending on the facts and circumstances, “on your side,” too. Human Resources representatives are surely not your “friend,” or your mom, or your lawyer, or any kind of “company police officer.” Their job is not to bring about fairness or to protect employees but, as it says in their title, to “manage human resources.”

So, there are “pro’s and “con’s” in both reporting and not reporting an incident to HR.

The truly best answer to the question “Should I report this to HR?” is “Maybe, depending on the outcome of a careful and thoughtful consideration and weighing of the “pro’s and con’s” with a strong emphasis on the word “careful.”

In reading this newsletter, please bear in mind that nothing at all in this newsletter is meant to suggest that you should not take steps that are needed to protect yourself, or that you should ignore any company requirements that you look the other way when you observe impropriety. Rather, we seek to help you make the best decision regarding whether or not to report, object or complain.

WHAT YOU CAN DO: Here are eleven considerations to weigh before deciding your own course of action if an incident of misconduct or impropriety takes place either toward you, or in some way involving you, at work:
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Unknown Job Benefits and Perks – Are You Missing Out on Any?

Published on February 16th, 2016 by Alan L. Sklover

“ Once you get that two-way energy thing going,
everyone benefits hugely.”

– James Taylor

ACTUAL “CASE HISTORY”: Retaining the best employees is a crucial part of business success today. But, at the same time, keeping employee-related costs down is also a matter of business survival in the hyper-competitive world we live in. What’s an employer to do? Many have turned to providing unusual perquisites (commonly called “perks.”)

Following World War II, when soldiers returned from war eager to form families, buy houses and drive cars, there resulted a shortage of labor to build, construct and manufacture what people wanted to buy, own and consume. So employers came up with the idea of “job benefits” in an effort to attract and retain employees. That is how employer-provided health insurance, disability insurance, life insurance, paid vacation days and retirement benefits, just to name a few, came to be commonly expected employment “benefits.”

The word “perquisite” – or “perk,” for short – means “a gratuity, privilege or right of employment that is incidental to usual compensation.” Some might call them “mini-benefits,” because they are not as costly to employers, and do not seem as valuable to employees in comparison with such things as health insurance, pensions and life insurance.

In today’s competition for the best employees, employers are coming up with new, different, and unusual ways to attract and retain those who seem to be “the best and the brightest.” Your employer just might offer certain job “perks” that you may not be aware of.

According to a recently published report, these are some employer-provided perks you may have a hard time believing:
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“Should I file a complaint with HR, or just resign?”

Published on January 25th, 2013 by Alan L Sklover

Question: Hi, I have worked for a local county government for nearly 8 years. My supervisor and I have never really gotten along and she has always tried to make things difficult for me. 

I was recently diagnosed with a chronic medical condition which required a few meetings with the ADA (“Americans with Disabilities Act”) Compliance Office. Since then, my supervisor has treated me even more badly. She recently told me that my position may not be right for me and I should consider looking for another job. I have talked with her supervisor and she has refused to intervene. 

Should I go to Human Resources and file a complaint? Or is it time to move on? Any advice would be much appreciated.

Sacramento, California

Answer: Dear Lea: While the information about your situation that I have to work with is limited, I think there are several reasons you should do BOTH (i) file a Complaint with Human Resources AND (ii) start the process of moving on. Here are my best thoughts:    

 1. First, your health and what affects your health need to be your primary “compasses” in what to do. As the saying goes, “If you have your health, you have everything.” I would not at all doubt that your stress at work may contribute to your chronic medical condition. Let’s just say this: it sure won’t help it. Lots of things related to work and finances give us stress, including (a) being without a job, (b) looking for a job, (c) people at work who intentionally make your life miserable, and (d) those in authority who refuse to intervene when it is their job to intervene. Which ones are more stressful to you only you know for sure, but I think reducing unnecessary stress, to the degree you have control over your stress, ought to be one of your primary “compasses” you use to determine your next direction and the steps to take in that direction. 

2. Second, it seems pretty clear that your supervisor is reacting negatively to your disabling condition, and that is nothing less than (a) a violation of Federal (and State) law, and (b) a violation of your company’s policies. I cannot expect any supervisor to be happy to hear that one of his or her employees may need either an accommodation for health reasons, or time off to see doctors or the ADA Compliance Office. As a supervisor myself, I know that if one employee cannot do the work, for any reason, I have to find another employee to do the work, or do it myself. That’s only human. 

However, an employee with a disabling medical condition must – by federal and state law – be accommodated to a reasonable degree, and must NOT be treated negatively because of it, or because he or she has asked for an accommodation. We are fortunate to live in such a humane society that would pass such laws; we should never be afraid to exercise our legal rights. And, too, supervisors who “come down on” employees who visit the ADA Compliance office cannot then tell them, on that basis, to “look elsewhere” for employment.    

3. Your supervisor’s supervisor is shamelessly avoiding her own duties to you, as well. I am eternally perplexed by people who seek positions of responsibility, only to shirk those responsibilities when given to them. Your supervisor’s supervisor should have intervened, or had HR intervene. That, too – not acting when a seemingly valid concern has been raised about violation of a federal workplace law – is, itself, capable of being described as a violation. 

4. Please consider replacing important communication “by your lips” with communications “by your fingers.” Lea, I don’t mean this as a criticism, but only as a caution: all important communications at work should, if possible, not be spoken, but instead be emailed. You have “spoken” with your Supervisor, and you have “spoken” with your Supervisor’s Supervisor. They may forget (or mischaracterize) what you said, when you said it, how you said it, and even the tone of your voice when you said it. I love emails, for they provide a clear record of all these things. No one should fear the truth, and emails are always on the side of the truth.   

5. Filing a Written Complaint with Human Resources should give you (a) a degree of protection from further bad treatment, (b) leverage to obtain more time to look for a better job, (c) a possible transfer, and (d) perhaps a severance package of sorts. By filing a Written Complaint with HR, you put your employer, your supervisor and your supervisor’s supervisor all on notice that you will no longer sit back and tolerate what has been happening: a violation of law. Your health is important. Unnecessary stress is harmful to it, and reasonable accommodations to any disability are required by law. In this way, you will make yourself somewhat protected from further bad treatment, because your supervisor will know that she is “being watched.” 

Also, of great importance, if you file a written Complaint, that will greatly increase your chances of  being given more time to find a new job, being permitted to transfer, or even receive a severance package. 

If you would like to obtain a Model Letter that you can adapt and use to file a Formal Request for a Disability Accommodation under the ADA (Disability) Retaliation, just [click here.]  

6. Filing A Written Claim with HR will also discourage your Supervisor from treating others in this way, now and in the future. Another probable effect of your filing a written Complaint with Human Resources is that your Supervisor will probably not be so arrogant as to treat other people this same way. While it may sound altruistic, some might even say idealistic, you may, in your own way, be helping to “repair the world.” If your supervisor does act more humanely to others, it will just prove what my mother taught me as a young child: “Accountability encourages responsibility.” 

If you would like to file a complaint of illegal Retaliation for your meeting with ADA Compliance, and would like a Model Letter to do so, simply [click here.] 

7. Lastly, should you decide to resign, please consider the many advantages of submitting an “Involuntary Resignation.” As you may or may not know, we have “invented” a concept we call “Involuntary Resignation.” Sound sort of oxymoronic? Well, as you now well know, not all resignations are entirely “voluntary,” and making a record that your resignation is “involuntary,” right in the resignation letter, itself, preserves your (a) possible right to collect unemployment, (b) possible legal rights and claims, (c) possible reason to collect severance, and (d) your better ability to answer people, in the future, who ask why you resigned without first having a new job. If you’re interested in this concept, please review my article [click here], and my video [click here] on the subject of “Involuntary Resignation.”   

If you would like to obtain a Model Involuntary Resignation for your adaptation and use, simply [click here.] 

Lea, you are somewhat between a “rock” (your health concerns) and a “hard place” (your supervisor.) I hope these thoughts are helpful to you in finding a “way out” of your predicament. Thanks for writing in. I will say a prayer for improvement in your health.      

My best to you,
Al Sklover

Repairing the World –
One Empowered and Productive Employee at a Time ™

© 2013 Alan L. Sklover, All Rights Reserved.

Alan L. Sklover

Alan L. Sklover

Employment Attorney
and Career Strategist
for over 35 years

Job Security and Career Success now depend on knowing how to navigate and negotiate to gain the most for your skills, time and efforts. Learn the trade secrets and 'uncommon common sense' of Attorney Alan L. Sklover, the leading authority on "Negotiating for Yourself at Work™".

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