Thinking of raising a complaint to your Human Resources representative? First, read these Dos and Don’ts from an employment law attorney.
1. DO read this article: “HR Is Not Your Friend: Here’s Why.” In representing clients in gender discrimination claims and pregnancy discrimination claims, I have learned that many employees think HR is there for them. On their side. Employees think: If I am completely honest and transparent with HR, HR will know what to do and will make my situation better. And all too often that does not happen. Not only that—often, complaining to HR has made things worse for many of my clients. It is important to think through the process carefully—ideally with the counsel of an experienced employment lawyer.
2. DO think through what you want to say in advance. Your mind is likely swirling with memories, anecdotes, and emotions, and it is important to put pen to paper in advance so that you can communicate your concerns clearly. A conversation with your HR Representative is not the time to journal your thoughts out loud; you want to be prepared.
3. DON’T accept blame. Your goal is to lodge a complaint and express your concerns. Can you think of situations you should have handled differently? Sure. Are there areas where you need to improve? Of course. But this is not a confessional. Do not minimize your concerns by acknowledging your fault in the process.
4. DO call the behavior discriminatory if you think it is. Unfortunately, companies and bosses can do an awful lot of rotten things to you without doing anything illegal. Got a jerk boss? In many instances, the law will not kick in if he is a jerk to everyone. If you suspect he is a jerk to you because of your gender, your race, or your religion, for example, you should say so. That indicates that his conduct may be illegal, and it should trigger HR to do more.
5. DO follow up in writing. It is a good idea to send a follow-up email summarizing your concerns and the plan for next steps. This creates a record for you for the future and makes it more likely that everyone is on the same page. You may even consider drafting this in advance, to help you stick to your talking points during the meeting.
6. DON’T rely solely on a blog post listing a few Dos and Don’ts! Consult an experienced employment law attorney.