Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Q&A featuring Michael Belk

Michael Belk, from Ethical Behavior Boy, presented me with the following question, "If I file an EEOC grievance, does HR have a legal responsibility to make sure I am protected as an employee?  For instance will they allow an employer to fire me without just cause other than the fact that I am causing him or her headaches?"

The Law

Interesting question, Michael, thanks for asking. First, let's discuss the law that pertains to this issue. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that employers cannot retaliate against employees who "...are making charges, testifying, assisting, or participating in enforcement proceedings." In other words, if an employer fires or demotes an employee for filing a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the employer is acting illegally.

The Answer

First, HR cannot "make" an organization do anything. HR professionals who are working for organizations are employees. HR should advise an organization if an organization's employment practices are illegal, HR professionals should advise employees of their rights under the law, HR professionals (like any employee) can refuse to break the law, and HR professionals can file complaints against their employers. Also, when one considers the 7th Circuit's decision in the case of Smith v. Bray which stated that an HR manager can be held personally liable for retaliation; it is in the best interests of HR professionals to not only dissuade their organizations from retaliating against employees, but to also refuse to participate in retaliatory actions. My interpretation of this decision says "Yes, HR does have a legal responsibility to make sure you are protected from retaliation."

Personally I think that an HR professional who is acting in the organization's and employees' best interests would advise against retaliation simply because it is an HR professional's duty to do so. However, these are my own views, and these views may not be shared by some HR professionals.

As always, please feel free to leave a comment, provide an argument, correct me, or ask a question.


  1. Thanks Charity for answering my question and posting it for the benefit of others.

    You answered my question thoroughly and provided cited resources to back your claims.

    I no longer feel like I am in the game alone. Thanks a lot.

    1. No problem, Michael! I'm glad that I was able to answer your question.

      Thank you for helping me to learn something new. When I saw your question, I recalled a case from a management course that addressed a similar issue. I was looking for that case and found the Smith v. Bray case, which is more relevant than the case I was looking for. Thank you for stopping by.


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