If you are being bullied in the workplace—should you go to Human Resources (HR) for help? Yes and No. The HR department may be part of your management when it comes to work hierarchy. If you have an HR department where you work, it may be an “internal” work requirement to seek an HR expert’s assistance in dealing with discrimination or bullying. BUT—are they there to support you in your time of need? I am going to share some information to enlighten you. I can do that—I am an HR expert who spent 22 years in the career field and I am still advising people as an HR consultant. Here are three tips on seeking HR’s assistance:
First, if your HR department is part of the management of where you work, you must understand that the HR representative may be required to share the information you shared with them, to the director or top manager in your company. That manager will want to know if there is dissension in the workplace. If your agency is in the civilian sector, the cost, time, and energy spent on Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) matters or other agencies could destroy or cost the company much embarrassment. Settlement fees or court costs will likely come out of the company owner’s pocket. If it’s a government agency, there are still issues of money and time, but “settlement” comes out of the tax payer’s pocket. An Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) case like the one I had for discrimination and later retaliation/bullying, can easily cost over $150k.
Second, an HR expert in your workplace may purposely try to down-play your accusations of discrimination or bullying because they know how serious the matter can become. They may turn-it-around on you and state comments that make you fear that you may lose your job over your concerns. Instead of relying on HR to be your subject matter expert (SME), why not learn everything you can about your rights at your workplace. You can research policies and laws that would apply in your case. If this is not for you—consider hiring a professional expert to help you with your matter. If lack of money is an issue, you may qualify for pro bono assistance from an attorney. Here is a good site to check out: https://apps.americanbar.org/legalservices/probono/directory.html
Third, if you file charges against your company or agency, you may face retaliation that can come in many forms. If your HR expert is aware that you are being harassed or retaliated against because you reported someone in your workforce, they may be told to help support management by keeping you in the “dark” about your rights. They may even be “involved” in attempts to fire you, discredit you, or defame you. I filed charges of “nepotism” (Illegal hiring of family or friends by management) to the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) in Washington D.C. I had seen numerous managers hiring their family and friends in the Veteran Affairs. It’s illegal and happens all the time. It’s no wonder the Veteran Affairs is cited negatively in the news these days.
One of the many charges I filed was an HR employee hiring their grandchild to work for the Veteran Affairs for a summer program for college students. No announcement had gone out at this time about summer hiring of temporary employees. This HR employee knew this was a government prohibited personnel practice, but made a choice to ignore mandatory government laws and policies. There was no turning to this HR employee for help when attempts were made to fire me with illegal allegations, that later proved to be false.
I want to wrap this up that there are many good HR employees out there and many that care about your circumstances. You may never know if they truly want to help you if they don’t give you the support you need and deserve. Sometimes, their hands are tied by the management in your workplace. When I first began working in the Veteran Affairs in HR, I was told that I worked for management and I had to always put management first in all matters. Think on that one. I made some managers angry when I told VA employees their rights about Family Medical Leave Act matters and other personnel matters that they were entitled to by law. Why? Because some of the managers wanted to keep their employees in the “dark” about their rights and entitlements. Very sad. Those managers were fully utilizing their entitlements and wanting to control their employees through fear and manipulation. The greatest joy in the world to me is to see someone stand up to workplace bullying and know their rights.
If you find yourself confused, dis-empowered or wanting to know more about your rights, be sure to check out my website at www.DawnMarieWestmoreland.com You have the right to be treated with respect in your workplace and to know your rights as an employee.