In a prior job, I used to share a cubicle with a guy who hated everything. I wish that this were an exaggeration. This guy, who we’ll call Steve (because his name was Steve) was quicker to express a negative sentiment than the Grinch (and he was also slightly hairier). Steve was very unpleasant to be around, and was always pushing the limits of the company rules. And then, one day, he pushed too hard, and he was fired. He stormed out of the office, threatening to sue everyone he saw, and then he was gone. We’ve all got that co-worker. You know whom I’m talking about.
Human Resources. It’s a living thing. State and Federal rules and regulations combined with business protocol and best practices. It’s a field that requires knowledgeable and determined professionals. Usually the path to equitable solutions is clear. But what about the time when implementing the reasonable accommodation under ADA crosses into the privacy regulations of HIPPA? Or, federal exemptions regarding state statues cross paths under ERISA? The truth is that the HR professional can become personally liable. Let’s talk about a few places where liability can creep in. Under the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) the law criminalizes knowingly hiring an illegal immigrant, along with financial and other penalties for employing them. This act introduced the I-9 form to ensure that documentary proof of employability was provided, however there are plenty of methods potential hires have found in forging their documentation. And, hiring personnel could still be found negligent in a possible case of employing an illegal immigrant.
Have you ever been summoned for jury duty? Well, let me tell you a little about it. You HAVE to go; no if, and, or buts about it. You are sometimes allowed to reschedule, but you’ve still got to do your time. Missing work, school, birthdays, weddings, or whatever it may be is inconvenient to say the least. What if the case continues on for weeks or even months? Now can you imagine if you weren’t on the jury, but were the defendant?! It can happen easier than one might think, especially for all you professionals out there. Thinking that you’re completely protected from lawsuits is a rather naïve assumption, especially nowadays. Recent trends in court decisions have been holding HR practitioners, supervisors, business owners, and other decision-makers personally liable for their actions under several employment laws.
Businesses take risks. That’s the way it is. Business is risk. But, businesses also do everything they can to protect themselves. One way they protect themselves is to hire Human Resource professionals to ensure the business does not cross governmental legal parameters in regards to employee rights. The ironic thing is that these same HR professionals can actually be at risk themselves. Employment litigation is becoming increasingly common in the USA. And plaintiff attorneys are not only suing the companies, but also the managers and supervisors, including HR managers.