Human Resources/Workplace Harrasment/Intimidation?
A Coworker lodged an informal complaint with our H/R Manager at a small community college in Arizona with a workforce of approximately 500 personnel. After discussing the complaint with her, HR elevated it to a formal complaint. After meeting with all involved individuals, HR recommended some interpersonal communications changes and closed the issue with no further action to be taken. Approximately 1 week after the meeting was completed, my coworker's Department head transferred her from her original duty assignment as an IT Technician (responsible for in excess of 100 active users), to a lesser position that was fundamentally an information desk (no reduction in pay or title). The individual whom she replaced was transferred to her "old" position. Approximately 3 months later, she was transferred to an off-campus location as an IT Technician (supporting 12 users)and the person she replaced at the "help desk" was relocated to their original position. Her new supervisor is required to report in to her Department head daily on her work performance. She has discussed her concerns about the relocation(s) with the director of H/R but has not received what she feels is a satisfactory answer. Does this constitute workplace retribution/intimidation, since this occurred after exercising her employee rights with HR and with no previous counseling or performance issues? And if so, what options does she have that will not make an already bad situation worse?
First, thank you for the question. You asked it as "public" , so any replies will be searchable online. not sure if this is somethign you would want filed as private. if you have followup, and you prefer it to be private between us then send a new question as private (tick the correct box to set as private).
Your scenario is detailed, but there is important information missing that would sway it in one direction or another. Mainly, what was the investigation about !!! The details that are important are:
1- someone filed an informal complaint- about what? Was it about protected discriminatory or whistleblower activity, or just complaining about the poor parking or Internet conditions. These details are important.
2- OK, so HR elevated "the complaint" to a formal complaint. Good - so it must be important. But maybe not.
3- HR Recommended interpersonal communication changes. - What does this mean exactly ?? And how does it impact all the parties involved ?
4- Issue was closed and no further action was taken - Likely fine... not every investigation by HR needs to have a Grand Jury deliberation. This is a stretch, but to be clear some situations can be resolved in-house quickly withg little to no drama- and yes, people might be moved around.
5- Was transferred to be an IT Tech = not sure of the original situation, so maybe it was to "separate" people or some other reason. Hard to say what was in the mind of HR not knowing the people and the facts involved.
6- Her supervisor has to report daily on her performance- Again, there may be "another side" to the story you or I am not aware of. So, why the college feels this person all of a sudden needs to have daily performance reports means there is something going on with either the employee or the college. Again, I dont know the situation or what reasons they did this and not fair to speculate.
To be honest, nothing you wrote in this scenario so far is really so unjust or terrible. Sometimes employees feel one way and have a perspective; and the management or HR have a different perspective. Who is right ? this is the golden question.
REMEMBER- even if action taken is not fair, it still may not be illegal ...
7- She discussed her new concerns with HR and hasn't gotten a satisfactory answer - HR is not obligated to explain every detail of their thought process. Might sound harsh, insensitive or unfair, but no manager is required to explain their line of thinking- except to their OWN boss-- or not... SURE, a boss canchoose to explain their thinking and rationale to all the employees for an hour at the next company meeting, but it is common practice for a boss to say "This is what we are going to do..." and that is all the reason and explanation that's needed.
8- is it intimidation or retrobution for opening a complaint - No- not as far as I can tell. Again, knowing all the intimate details from you would STILL ONLY give me 1/2 the total story... As an HR professional, I dont jump to sides or conclusions without all the details. I have investigated complaints before and they are often much deeper than one would expect.
9- further action or options for her? - No idea. If the reason for the initial complaint is something porotected by law for disclosing, and to you it seems like retrobution, then tell your friend she should get an attorney or at least call one to discuss the situation in detail. I'm not an attorney. If it was a general complaint about somethign not so important in the larger scope, then she may have to simply take the cards as they are dealt or maybe find work elsewhere if things seem to get unbearable.
A person can always leave a shoddy employer- and take their skills elsewhere; even if the shoddy employer is a school or university.
I am sure this is not the black and white yes/ no answer you wanted for guidance to your friend, but HR is often shades of Gray.
I hope this helps somehow.
Human Resource Services