Trouble at the Office? Perhaps It’s Time You Involve HR

Typically, employers expect managers to resolve some employee issues on their own and to report others to human resources. As a manager, do you know which is which?

For instance, you might know that you should report any complaints of unlawful discrimination, retaliation, or harassment, to HR, even if:

  • The employee pleads with the manager not to consult with HR
  • The complaint appears to lack merit
  • The employee requests the manager to keep the complaint confidential

Nevertheless, the line is often less clear in other instances. For example, an employee is often late and it’s your responsibility to resolve the issue by confronting the specific employee about his unpunctuality and handling the issue according to the relevant company policies.

But what if the unpunctual employee responds saying that he has been late due to health-related issues? This is the kind of situation you will have to report so HR can reach a fair decision about whether a work accommodation is appropriate.

To help you out, here is a brief guide of when to report in suspect categories.


Accommodation or Leave Requests


Perhaps an applicant or employee won’t use legal words, such as “American with Disabilities Act (ADA) accommodation” or “Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)” to leverage their statutory rights. However, as an informed supervisor, you must recognize the individual’s communication as a request for a leave of absence or accommodation.

When it comes to accommodations, you should report requests for help, job changes, and support in case the employee has previously disclosed the existence of a serious impairment or health condition.

With regards to leave, remember to report requests for ‘time off’ for medical reasons or other potential FMLA situations, even if the employee doesn’t mention the word ‘FMLA.’ In fact, it is the employer’s responsibility to notify the employee of any leave rights.

In case the employee is not eligible for FMLA leave, you will still have to report a request for time off to HR. You could potentially accommodate a leave under the ADA irrespective of FMLA eligibility. State-specific leave laws differ to make sure you are aware of those in your states of operation.


Allegations of Wrongdoings by Others

An increasing number of employees raise their voice against alleged wrongs even when they don’t directly fall under employment terms and conditions. For example, managers may hear about suspected corporate fraud, improper usage of company property, sexual harassment activity or workplace bullying.

You should promptly report complaints of fraudulent or criminal activity, such as employee theft. Additionally, you should also report any alleged violations of core employer policies that might have legal consequences. For example, report any incidents outside business ethics standards, conflict of interest policies, or codes of conduct.


Wage Complaints

If an employee complains about an incorrect paycheck, it is considered an employee relations issue instead of a legal issue. Nevertheless, if an employee says that the employer has failed to pay him for the time he worked or has made inappropriate deductions from his pay, you will see legal red flags.

In the case of nonexempt employees, improper deductions may mean things like unpaid short breaks. On the other hand, for exempt employees, improper deductions might be deductions not falling in line with the salary basis requirement of the overtime regulations put forward by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). This includes not paying an exempt employee for a holiday when the employer is closed.

By promptly reporting a wage complaint to HR, the organization gets the chance to decide whether the complaint has merit. If HR finds proper deductions made and no money owed, they can take steps to correct the employee’s misunderstanding. However, if a mistake is found then HR can correct it prior to the employee legally filing a complaint. In this case, your swiftness will go a long way towards reducing employer liability.


Signs of Workplace Violence

While it isn’t possible to prevent all workplace violence, you can still keep an eye out for warning signs and report it to HR immediately, including:

  • Conversations about weapons that appear abnormal in frequency
  • Suicide threats
  • Threats of violence
  • Discussions about a specific fascination with victims or perpetrators of violence
  • Stalking
  • Statements about receiving signals or hearing voices


On the Job Injuries or Safety Violation

At times, employees may try to cover up a workplace injury to avoid getting into trouble. However, not reporting a safety violation to HR is a direct violation of OSHA’s General Duty Clause. Keep an eye out for any workplace safety violation and involve HR immediately if you suspect a violation or injury.

It can be quite challenging to know when to involve HR. Always err on the side of caution, and when in doubt – ask HR! In the end, it may save you from causing more issues than the original one.


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