In this blog post, we’ll discuss four nasty tricks that human resources(hr)use to cheat their employees out of money, rights, and jobs. If you are not aware of these, it’s only a matter of time before you fall for one. These tricks get worse as we go on, so stay with us till the end.
Open Door Policy
Trick number one is the mighty “open door policy”. If you open up your employee handbook, there’s a 90% chance that somewhere in there it says that human resources have an “open door policy”. Regardless of the language used most people understand that to mean HR is there for you, they want to hear your concerns and complaints, and if you go to HR, they will keep your complaint confidential and you’ll be protected from retaliation. This is absolutely not true.
They almost never keep your complaint confidential. There have been thousands of employees who went to HR in confidence only to find out shortly thereafter that their complaint was shared with the very person that they were complaining about. But it gets much worse than that. Most companies actually use the open-door policy as an early warning system so they can get a heads up on any complaints, and quash employee dissents and complaints before they spread.
There have been thousands of employees who have complained about something legitimate and shortly thereafter they got written up, and shortly after that, they were fired from their job for some sort of vague and nebulous reason. As a part of this, HR routinely tells people that if they utilize the open-door policy, they’ll be legally protected from retaliation.
But that’s completely untrue! legally, you’re only protected from retaliation if you’ve made a complaint protected by law. But on the flip side, most HR people know that you’re not protected and if it suits their objectives they’ll tattle to management you’ll soon get fired thereafter.
But don’t get this thing wrong because there are absolutely times when you should go to Human Resources and complain in writing. But as a word of caution, you should not complain until you fully know why you are doing it, how to do it right, and how to minimize the risks.
So, up till now, you must have gotten a fair idea of how nasty the open-door policy trick is but it doesn’t even come close to the worst on this list. So stay hooked!!
Trick number two is “Workplace Investigations”. Let’s say you go to HR to verbally complain about a coworker who has been harassing you and other female employees. The HR representative will listen to you attentively and take notes. You explain to her what happened to you and you give her the names of other victims at work. The HR representative says that she is going to launch an investigation into the matter. This unfortunately is a big lie.
There are no due process rights within a company. Although to some extent, it’s true that she is practically going to launch an investigation, not to find out what actually happened. Her investigation is going to be about how she can best protect the interests of the company. You see, human resources are not your friend. The company pays her a paycheck. Her job is to protect the company from employees like you and if a potential lawsuit is brewing, her job is to document the things that help the company, and not you.
So, it’s very likely that she’ll destroy the notes that she took during the meetings with you. She’ll only interview the witnesses that help the company not the ones that corroborate your story. Every time she communicates with you going forward, it’ll probably be either in person or on the phone, not in writing.
She’ll start working with your direct supervisor to document your performance deficiencies so she can write you up in a few minutes to pamper your personnel file so that down the road if you sue the company, the company could say” look, we wrote her up several times. She was a bad employee.”
The worst part of all of this is that when she finishes her investigation, it’s guaranteed that she’ll create some kind of investigation report that’d conclude that there wasn’t any evidence of wrongdoing. Even if the HR representative genuinely believes that you were harassed, she’ll never put it in writing because as we mentioned earlier, her job is to protect the interests of the company, not you.
Now, with all that said, if an investigation is going on at your job, should you refuse to participate or let this knowledge prevent you from submitting a legitimate complaint to HR? No, absolutely not. You must play the game and participate. If you don’t, down the road in litigation the jury will think that you were the problem, not the company. You must always think to yourself that – ” how the jury would view my actions here?” Asking yourself this question is key to doing the right thing in most employment situations.
Trick number three, “They lie”. Although in most interactions with HR, there’s no reason for them to lie to you. However, there is no legal requirement that they’ll be truthful with you. So when things start to get tough when there is a dispute, you can count on them protecting their paycheck at your expense.
So, in addition to what we’ve already discussed here today, what are the common situations when HR is going to lie to employees? Well, they routinely lie in write-ups and performance improvement plans. They can say that you were late all the time for work when you weren’t. They can say that you were insubordinate when you weren’t. They can say that you had a bad attitude when you didn’t.
And if the cumulative effect of all these small lies ultimately leads to your termination, they know that they can get away with it because the law of defamation doesn’t have many teeth in employment law.
They also routinely lie during lawsuits. This is super common. A lot of HR representatives have said this under oath during a deposition. They’ll say that they had given you several verbal warnings when they didn’t or they will deny that other people have complained about the issue that you’ve complained about. But why do they do this? Well, they do it to protect their job. Just think about it, if they tell the truth, they’re probably going to cost their company a whole bunch of money. So they lie in order not to get fired. The only way to hold them accountable is to have a really good lawyer who can impeach them properly during the case.
But this trick, this line still isn’t even close to the worst trick on this list. The next one is the worst. It has screwed millions of Americans out of billions of dollars, and it’s not an exaggeration.
Trick number four, and this is the worst, “Arbitration”. Each year, thousands of employees consulting with their employment lawyers are asked a common question by the latter, “Did you sign an arbitration agreement when you started to work at the company?” Most people respond by saying, “What’s arbitration?” and therein lies part of the insidious deception of this trick.
Very few people even know what arbitration is and what its implication is for workers. But don’t worry, an explanation for the same is provided further.
Here is how it works. After you accept the job offer, HR says, congratulations. And then they slide over a bunch of documents for you to sign. Happy to have a new job, most people quickly sign them without ever reading them, and somewhere between 20 to 40% of employers have their new employees sign an agreement called “arbitration” or the arbitration agreement is buried in the employee handbook and the employee signs an acknowledgment page that says they agree to the terms in the employee handbook.
Now, if you try to refuse the arbitration agreement, let’s say you refuse to sign it, HR will probably rescind the job offer. So, what does arbitration actually say? Well, it says that if there’s ever a dispute between you and the company you can’t sue them in the public court system. You have to sue them through private arbitration. And if valid, that arbitration forces you to fight for your rights in a secretive, binding judicial process where if you lose you have no right to appeal. So, you can’t sue in the public court system.
How it works is, you can file for arbitration, and the arbitrator who is usually a retired judge or a former defense attorney becomes the judge and jury for the case. This arbitrator is paid hundreds of dollars an hour by the company to act as a neutral adjudicator. And as a matter of common sense, if you are asking yourself if the arbitrator is getting paid thousands upon thousands of dollars by the company you are suing, how often do they actually rule in the employee’s favor? Well, the answer is not nearly as often as they rule in favor of the company.
So let’s say you have a great case against the company. When your case is forced into arbitration its settlement value becomes substantially less than if it were in the regular court system. That’s great for the company and terrible for you. Many employment lawyers are of the opinion that arbitration dramatically reduces the value of the case. And if you extrapolate this out on a nationwide basis, billions and billions of dollars of employee money are lost. But that is not even the worst part.
Although you can sue them in arbitration, you might get something. Sometimes you may get something that’s pretty much okay, but most arbitration agreements say that you cannot sue them on a class-wide basis. That means you can’t bring a class action against the company.
But why does that matter? Well, let’s say the company has failed to pay you $5,000 in unpaid overtime. $5,000 is a lot of money but that is not nearly enough to justify hiring a lawyer and pursuing a case against the company. The costs of that case will quickly overwhelm its value. Those smaller claims are just not worth pursuing even on a contingency basis.
But if you and your lawyer can gather together a hundred-plus people and sue on a class-wide basis, then the case can become economically viable to pursue. So, if you’re paying attention to what this means if there’s an arbitration agreement, those smaller claims just don’t get pursued and there you go, the company gets away with theft.
So undoubtedly, arbitration is the worst trick HR and employers use to steal employee wages and minimize the size and impact of harassment, retaliation, and wrongful termination claims.
Trick number five, “Third Party Investigations”. In the previous point, we discussed that when you submit your complaint to your HR representative and he/she launches an investigation into the matter, the HR representative isn’t interested in finding out what actually happened to you. He’s only interested in finding the facts that protect the company. Because if he doesn’t protect the company he may get fired.
So, don’t be surprised when HR concludes that he found no evidence of any wrongdoing. Well, believe it or not, it gets a lot worse than that, upon receiving a complaint some sophisticated HR departments skip this investigation entirely and hire an outside third-party investigator. Usually, this investigator is an HR consultant or an attorney. HR will explain to you that this investigator was hired to be neutral or unbiased. Sounds great, right?
No, not at all! This is a very strategic deception. Think about it, think about the people involved, who is paying whom, and where their economic interest lie. The company’s economic interest is pretty obvious, it wants the complaint to either disappear or if it does get sued, it wants that documentation in hand that will help get the lawsuit dismissed quickly.
If the lawsuit goes all the way to trial, the company wants to be able to call a neutral outsider to take the stand and create the illusion that a fair and unbiased investigation took place.
Okay, then what about the investigator? what is their economic interest? Well, good question. If you’re thinking clearly this is equally obvious. The investigator was hired by the company and is being thousands upon thousands of dollars by the company to investigate the complaint. Now, what are the chances that he is going to be hired again in the future if his investigation concludes that the employee was harassed or retaliated against? Well, the answer is “zero”.
On the other hand, what are the chances that he’s going to get hired again in the future if he finds that no harassment took place? The answer is, very high.
Now there are dozens of neutral third-party investigation reports, and guess how many concluded that the company broke the law? Almost zero. And the reason is that these HR consultants and attorneys who do these investigations will quickly find themselves without any work if they don’t do what their corporate clients are actually paying them for.
Now, don’t be misunderstood, sometimes you should absolutely complain to HR in writing. Additionally, even though there is a rigged game, for the most part, you want to participate in good faith in any investigation that they conduct.
Trick number six, “Misclassification”. This trick has proven to be bothersome to many employment lawyers because it punishes trusting employees who work really hard. The simple meaning of misclassification is when the company pays you a salary when because of your job duties they are legally required to pay you by the hour, and the main consequence of doing that is you don’t get paid overtime when you put in those long hours that the company often makes you work because the salaried people do not get overtime.
If you’re misclassified and you’re required to work a lot of hours, the company is essentially stealing thousands of overtime dollars from you each year by not paying you in accordance with the law.
So, who’s the main culprit of this? Well, HR, of course, because when they hire people their job is to classify employees correctly. They know the legal difference between exempt employees who should get paid a salary and non-exempt employees who should get paid hourly.
But why do they do this? Obviously, it’s to save the company money. Business owners love to pay salaries because they are predictable, and then the company can work for the employees for as many hours as they want. If the HR representative misclassified a bunch of people and gets away with it, they are quite a hero to the business owner because they save them a ton on labor costs.
Now the last trick on this list is the one that drives employees crazy, it is the reason why wrongful termination verdicts get so big.
Lies During Terminations
Trick number seven, “Lie at Terminations”. Most of the time, when an HR fires somebody, they don’t need to lie about anything because the termination is perfectly legal. But in some termination meetings, HR goes out of its way to lie about why you are being fired. This is more common than people realize. Employment lawyers in the US get many calls from employees who claim that they were lied to about the reason for being fired.
But why would an HR lie about the reason to fire their employees? Well, there can probably be two main reasons why they do this.
Number 1 – They just don’t have the guts to tell you the real reason, but the real reason is perfectly legal.
Number 2, the important one – They are trying to conceal the real reason because it’s unlawful and this is the real trick here. It’s called pretext, which happens so frequently that there’s an entire library of case law on it.
But if you think about it, it makes sense why HR would do this. Let’s take an example: you complained at work about an OSHA violation or something protected like that and this complaint really upsets your boss. He becomes mad and goes to the HR representative and he says, “I want you to fire Tony, he’s a complainer”.
Well, the HR representative knows he can’t tell you the truth that you’re being fired for complaining about a safety violation. But he also can’t refuse to do what the owner says because if he does he puts his own job in jeopardy. Now, he’s stuck between a rock and a hard place. So, what is the HR representative going to do?
He’s gonna fire Tony and say that he is being laid off or his position was eliminated or he was tardy too many times or he was a poor performer or some other bogus reason like that. And this is the Trick. HR is lying to cover up the real unlawful reason.
This blog post aims to explain only the general practices prevalent in the industry observed by experts, researchers, .etc and does not intend to defame or discredit any person or entity. Further, you should not take anything said in this video as a piece of legal advice, if you need legal advice contact a licensed employment lawyer in your state or country.