Currently, I am an HR Generalist for a company that’s never had an HR person before.
The owner is an HR nightmare. He won’t allow me to do my job. He asked me what I thought my first priority was. I answered “compliance”. He then asked me “what does that mean”? I’ve been there for 6 months and I’m seriously considering reporting him to the Department of Labor, OSHA, FCRA, dept. of homeland security. Etc
His I-9’s for the people I’ve hired are the only ones that are completed. He told me there was “no sense of urgency” to get the others completed. He is aware he could be fined. Hourly people that work there, clock out for a meal, then sit at their desk and work. He is aware he can be fined for that. Field workers are expected to supply their own safety supplies. Goggles, hard hats etc. OSHA requires the employer to supply all safety supplies except safety shoes. The background check system they use is not FCRA compliant. It doesn’t give applicants the opportunity to appeal negative information in their background. The owner will ask applicants during interviews questions about marital status, number of children & where did you grow up, at an interview. I’m at a loss. I’ve spoken to him in reference to all of these issues. They are not important to him. Do you have any advice in regard to what I should do? I’m looking for a new position, but there are not a lot of HR jobs out there.
Well, getting out of there is a good idea, but jobs don’t grow on trees. Here are my questions for you.
1. Why did he hire an HR person? What did he expect you to do?
2. Is he evil or just clueless?
If I were you, I’d ask him directly the first question. Because, your top obligation is compliance, but he undoubtedly did not hire you because he wanted someone to do compliance. He, perhaps, wanted someone to do the hiring or someone to do training, or someone to listen to employee whining. You can do the job you were hired to do with a clear conscience because compliance isn’t your responsibility. Just make it clear to him, and document that he wishes you to do A, B, and C.
Now, the second question on evil or clueless? This makes a big difference. The government throws so many regulations at business owners it’s likely that every single one of them is violating the law in some way, even if they are diligently trying to follow all regulations. He’s clearly not trying very hard, but he may just not think it’s a big deal. For instance, if you’re traveling down the freeway in Philadelphia and the speed limit is 55 mph, it’s not a big deal to go 65 mph. Everyone else is doing it. (Unless, of course, it’s the turnpike and it’s rush hour, or construction hour, or Tuesday, in which case you won’t break 25 mph, but I digress.) He may think it’s like that–technically illegal, but no police officer is going to pull you over for that.
But, if he’s evil? If he has hired illegal aliens, knows it, and doesn’t care, that’s a different issue. If he thinks people are working through lunch because they love their jobs that’s handled differently than if he expects them to work through lunch and fires them if he doesn’t. If he asks about kids because he’s chatty, that’s one thing. If he’s asking because he refuses to hire any women with children, that’s another. Get what I’m saying? The end result is the same should someone show up for an audit, but how you handle it is different.
And even though I said just do the job you were hired to do, I admit, it would drive me insane to work in a place where OSHA could show up any minute and put us through an audit that would turn my life into a living Hell. So, here’s what I would do.
Start small. The I-9 thing is easily fixable. Do your own audit and everyone who doesn’t have the proper documentation gets a note from you and an appointment to bring in their paperwork. I’m guessing the business isn’t that big if you’re the first HR person, so you can get this done quickly.
Get quotes for new background check services. I can’t believe people are selling backgrounds that aren’t FCRA compliant, but there you go. Ask your current vendor what it will cost to get them up to compliance. Get quotes from other vendors. Go to your boss and say, “here’s what it will cost to be compliant in the law.
So on and so forth. Just start fixing things. When he pushes back, say “If the Department of Labor showed up on our doorstep today, you’d be required to pay back pay and overtime for all these unpaid hours worked, plus additional fines. You’d need to hire an attorney to sort it all out. Anyone of your current or former employees could call this in at any time and you’d be in a world of financial hurt. Do you want to take that risk?” If he says yes, go ahead and write him an email saying that this is to make it clear that doing x (or not doing x) is a violation of federal law and you are advising him to do Y. You’re documenting and making it easy when he eventually gets sued.
Some things will be easier than others. The I-9 thing is easy enough. Getting money for employee safety equipment will not be easy. Informing him that he can’t ask about national origin is easy. Following up to make sure it happens is not.
So, while you’re looking for a new job, you have a real opportunity to make a difference and protect a business.