A Guide to Top HR Legal Issues

There are a number of reasons that the legal landscape within HR departments has changed over the years. Overall, though, the needs of the employees are being considered more than ever before. As such, it is important for HR departments to be aware of the legal issues that they are most likely to contend with.

By understanding the most common legal problems overall, HR departments will be able to implement certain changes. In turn, this lessens the risk of lawsuits and other legal actions being filed. So, on this note, let’s take a look at some of the more prevalent issues.

HR Violations Regarding Discrimination: Interestingly enough, the number of employer discrimination charges appears to be dropping every year. For instance, in 2016 there were over 90,000 complaints filed. In 2018, however, this number had lessened to less than 77,000.

Now, the reason for this is clear – HR departments are more cautious about avoiding discrimination in general. Nevertheless, this continues to be a prevalent problem. In particular, this is because there are a number of “protected statuses” to be aware of.

The most obvious include gender, race, sexual orientation, and religion. At the same time, you must also watch out for possible discrimination against marital and family status, disability, and even veteran status.

Thus, it is incredibly important for HR departments to remain up-to-date on all of the potential discrimination landmines around the workplace.

Harassment-Based Employee Lawsuits: Another top issue for HR departments is harassment. In the wake of social movements such as #MeToo, sexual harassment in the workplace is under a microscope. Thus, employers and HR personnel can’t appear to be ignoring such matters.

The same goes for other kinds of harassment in the workplace. If there is any kind of power imbalance or bullying going on, this opens up the possibility of a lawsuit. As such, it is vital that you take any and all kinds of harassment equally as seriously.

Now, there is a silver lining here for HR departments. Employees typically only file lawsuits as a last resort. In many instances, they will first approach human resources personnel and file an internal complaint. If the matter isn’t handled, it is only then that the employees feel the need to take legal action.

This is why your HR department needs to act on every complaint that they receive. Make sure that a thorough and unbiased investigation is launched. Furthermore, follow up complaints by tightening up laws regarding harassment.

Human Resource Issues with Confidentiality: Being a part of the HR department, you are well aware of all the sensitive information that you have access to. This can include:

  • Social security numbers
  • Personal addresses and phone numbers
  • Spousal information

In short, this is personal data that doesn’t have anything to do with the company. It should go without saying that these details should be kept confidential. They should never be shared with any other individuals.

Interestingly enough, most HR issues don’t actually stem from legal violations. Instead, it is often a misunderstanding of what HR departments must keep confidential. For instance, most employees believe that anything that they tell HR personnel – including complaints must be kept confidential.

However, this isn’t the case. In cases such as claims against harassment and discrimination, the department is obligated to carry out a proper investigation. Due to this, it isn’t always possible to keep the identities of the employee’s secret.

Many confidentiality issues can be avoided if HR personnel are more open about what they can and can’t keep private. For instance, when having meetings with employees, make it absolutely clear about what is confidential and what isn’t. This will prevent employees from feeling as though their rights have been violated.

Adhering to Equal Pay Laws: As mentioned, HR personnel has access to every employee’s salary information. Thus, you know how much each person is earning across the board. This means that you are immediately aware of any gaps that may exist based on gender or race.

At this point, most HR personnel may feel helpless to end such discrepancies. However, it is possible for you to construct policies that impact equal pay even before hiring takes place. As a result, you will be able to prevent any gaps from appearing due to any personal or biological factors.

To begin with, it is important to place “price tags” on the job description and role and not the employee that you wish to hire. This will make it easier to keep things equal on all fronts. It will also be helpful if HR workers dissuaded questions regarding previous salary histories. This will ensure that prior discrimination will not be carried over into the existing workplace.

These are some of the top legal issues that all HR departments have to contend with. Now that you have pinpointed what some of the major problems are, however, you will be able to tackle them in your own place of work much more efficiently.