Date: November 29, 2021

TELG principal R. Scott Oswald gives advice to HR professionals stuck between doing what’s legally right and what their higher-ups want them to do. Scott suggests consulting with the employee handbook, other executives in the organization, or even outside counsel.

Quoteworthy:
“HR professionals are often caught between the hammer and the anvil. They potentially put the careers of the people they advocate for in jeopardy – or their own career.”

R. Scott Oswald

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[EXCERPT]

How Should HR Professionals Respond if Asked to Do Something Illegal or Unethical?

Ralph Kellogg recalls being asked early in his HR career by an operations manager to fire a Black employee, ostensibly because the woman didn’t “represent the company well.”
Kellogg, who holds a SHRM-SCP, says he realized what the manager meant was, “We don’t like her because she’s Black.”

[…]

Facing ethical or moral dilemmas can be par for the course for HR practitioners, who may also sometimes feel as though they’re squeezed between what their higher-ups want them to do and what the law requires.

“HR professionals are often caught between the hammer and the anvil,” says R. Scott Oswald, managing principal at The Employment Law Group P.C., based in Washington, D.C. “They potentially put the careers of the people they advocate for in jeopardy—or their own career.”

[…]

When a business leader or supervisor makes a request that doesn’t sit well, Oswald recommends consulting the organization’s employee handbook.

If fulfilling the request would result in the violation of a policy in the handbook, the HR professional can point that out when sharing concerns with the person making the request.
If that doesn’t make a difference, Oswald suggests escalating the issue to the next-highest-level executive in the organization.

[…]

HR professionals also could bring their concerns to the organization’s outside counsel.

“I’m surprised at how infrequently they go to the legal advisor for a company. Lawyers by nature are risk-averse creatures,” Oswald says, adding that most executives won’t go against counsel instructions.

» View on SHRM.org (Site requires paid subscription.)