Human Resources Employees Have Rights Too!

I recently concluded representing a human resources manager who was terminated by her employer for simply doing her job. An arbitrator ruled in her favor. Here’s her story.

Lucy was employed as a human resources manager for a national company. She was asked to give a deposition in a race discrimination and retaliation lawsuit. Even though Lucy approved the termination of this worker, she testified truthfully that she was unaware at the time of the termination that this worker had previously made a race discrimination complaint to her supervisor (who recommended the termination). Lucy also testified the supervisor never advised of her of the worker’s complaint, and that it was never investigated by the HR department. That lawsuit settled shortly after Lucy gave her testimony.

Soon thereafter, Lucy’s employer took away many of her job duties. When Lucy asked why, she was told that corporate officials did not think her testimony was pro-employer. A couple of weeks later, the company “eliminated” her position in a reorganization.

Federal and state law prohibits retaliation against employees who not only complain about discrimination, but also for opposing discrimination against others, as well as testifying, assisting or participating in a discrimination investigation, proceeding or lawsuit.

Lucy’s employer denied wrongdoing and had a variety of explanations for her termination. One of the “bad actors” even denied knowing she gave a deposition, even though he was involved in settlement discussions in other lawsuits and was routinely briefed on deposition testimony. The arbitrator found that the employer’s witnesses were not credible, and awarded Lucy just under $100,000.

A good human resources employee can save a company hundreds of thousands of dollars in settlements, litigation costs and attorney fees, but only if they are allowed to do their job without interference and retaliation. Protect those who protect your company, otherwise there could be a steep price to pay, as Lucy’s employer discovered.

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John Wenke is an Employment Law Attorney practicing in the area of employment discrimination, wrongful termination, retaliation, and sexual harassment. Mr. Wenke represents employees in Texas and New Mexico, including but not limited to El Paso,  Las Cruces, Alamogordo, Pecos, Marfa, Alpine, Presidio, and Del Rio.