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Can you Sue the Human Resource Department?

December 29 2019 - Stories where people sue human resource departments are rarer than stories of people taking legal action against the company in general. HR departments are typically set up to prevent concerns over discrimination, harassment and unfair firings, so if they're run properly they actually reduce the risk of legal action being taken against a company. However, if you feel that the HR department hasn't looked after you properly or has done something that may have caused negative emotional or physical effects, either deliberately or through negligence, you may want to know a bit more about what sort of action can be taken against the HR departments.

When HR is at risk of successful legal action

An employee may sue HR if a representative of the department was majorly involved in an incident that the employee deemed to be damaging enough for legal action to be taken. For example, in the past there have been incidents where an HR employee was made to fire a pregnant employee based on the orders of the manager. Another common reason for legal action is when the HR employee reveals information revealed to them in confidentiality. Though there are definite common lawsuits that HR can face, sometimes, HR is more at-risk due to a legal tactic as the lawsuit may be more successful with more targets (i.e. specific employees as well as just the business).

Legal Considerations

Court costs and solicitor's fees are often quite steep, but if an individual is suing a company for doing something wrong there are certain legal entities that can offer them a special clause. The classic example of this, favoured by solicitors like Aston Knight Solicitors, is a 'No Win No Fee' promise, where solicitors do not charge unless the case is won. This is likely a tactic used by companies that have high confidence in their abilities (Aston Knight have a 99% success rate, for example). On the other side, if the individual HR employee is being sued, the business does not have an obligation to provide them with a lawyer, though many of them do. Typically, the decision is based on whether the employee was following company policy or making an independent decision.

Necessary Grounds

There are some necessary grounds that dictate whether the lawsuit has legitimacy. The employee needs to show that the HR department that are being sued were under a legal duty and did not live up to it (e.g. spreading confidential information). Also, the employee has to suffer in some way due to the decisions made by the HR department. This can be losing a job or promotion, but also suffering the emotional damage associated with public humiliation, which might come from illegal disclosing of information. If you as an employee have good performance reviews but have been fired without a clear reason, that could be necessary grounds to sue, especially if they file a complaint and don't get prompt or satisfactory results, which can be a clear sign that the firing was unjust. Note that if the company has good policies on paper that the HR team isn't necessarily following, this does not necessarily constitute the HR team's activities as illegal.


 


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