Employers are all ears when it comes to grievances

 

Julie loves her job, but her boss? Not so much. Sometimes he calls the 27-year-old data scientist who lives and works in Chelsea, NY, “Kardashian,” in light of her ample derriere. Not only that, but whenever a time-sensitive project comes up on a Friday afternoon, “he throws it in my lap, claiming I’m the best one to turn it around quickly,” she says.

 

“I don’t know if it’s sexual discrimination, bullying or he’s just an ass,” adds Julie. Yet, she hasn’t done much to voice her concerns. She fears that if she confronts her boss, he’ll load her up with drudge work. She also fears taking it to human resources.

 

“They’ll do what they need to do to protect my boss,” she says. “He’s very important to the company.” Julie is convinced that her employer would address the problem by reassigning her to a different group, “where the work isn’t the kind I need to advance my career.”

 

Don’t be so sure, says a chorus of HR and legal professionals that The Post spoke to.

 

“If your boss is a jerk, mistreats you or takes advantage of you, we want to know,” says Johnny Taylor, president and CEO of the 285,000 member Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM).

 

At this stage, an employee grievance doesn’t have to meet any legal standards. “If you were harmed, we want to make sure it is set right without any repercussions to you,” he says.

 

Annick Miller is director of HR Consulting at Namely, a startup which provides HR services to small and mid-size employers. She agrees that “companies want you to be set up to do your best work, and they will do whatever they need to ensure that.”

 

Attorneys claim that companies are taking employee complaints more seriously than ever.

 

“In today’s environment [with #MeToo and other issues in the limelight] employers aim for harmony, peace and protection,” says Stuart Salles, a labor lawyer who works in Tribeca, noting that this generally means dealing with offenders and caring for employees long before legal intervention becomes necessary.

 

So, don’t hesitate to bring your grievances to your boss or to HR for any reason, says Jennifer Magas, an attorney and clinical associate professor at Pace University. “Your problem probably isn’t unique and it’s likely that we’ve dealt with it — and even the specific individual(s) — before,” she says.

 

Employee grievances range from “my manager and I don’t see eye to eye,” to bullying, harassment, unreasonable workloads, unfair raises and pay, being treated differently from co-workers, lapses in security and even safety hazards.

 

But what if HR can’t or won’t help? You may have legal recourse, according to attorney Arthur Z. Schwartz, principal attorney of Advocates for Justice, noting that lawyers are unlikely to be interested in your case unless you have already brought it to the attention of your employer and given them a chance to resolve it.

 

“If you don’t complain, they’re not liable,” he says. And when you do, “your employer is charged with protecting you, whether you are right or wrong.”

The case also has to have legal merit, such as sexual harassment, discrimination on the basis of age, sex, sexual orientation, race, religion, national origin and so on. While bullying or name-calling won’t generally meet the legal threshold, “if it gets so bad that it forces you to quit, it may qualify as an ‘intentional infliction of emotional distress,’ which is a tort,” says Schwartz.

Attorneys who handle cases like these typically charge by the hour and they often start with a letter to your employer that says “cut it out.” Schwartz says that in many cases, that is all that is necessary for you to keep your job, your responsibilities and your salary and to have the offender leave you alone.

If that doesn’t work, then you can consider suing, says Schwartz, but get out your checkbook, because many lawyers won’t talk contingency unless the prospect of winning a substantial settlement is huge. And if it’s an individual at your company you want to sue, be mindful that even if you win, they might not have the money to pay up, says Schwartz.

If your complaint is systemic, then the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU.org), Urban Justice Center (UrbanJustice.org) or NAACP Legal Defense Fund (NAACPLDF.org) may be able to help pro bono.

 

 

By Virginia Backaitis

Source: nypost.com