6 Human Resources Lessons We Can All Use

The “regular” news can be devoid of headlines related to human resources for days on end. Other times, HR makes headlines (and front pages) more than it should. It was a busy week for HR in the news last week.

Consider these three headlines from just three days (February 14 to 16):

Vancouver Burger King cook, fired for taking food after 24 years service, is awarded $46K (Read it)
A misunderstanding between a long-time employee, with a clean service record, and her manager ended up costing the employee her job, but cost Burger King $46,000 for not handling the situation well.

Hospital worker fired for being AWOL while in jail on 7th DUI wins job back (Read it)
An employee was missing from his position for months without any contact with his employer due to an arrest and subsequent sentencing. Lack of communication wasn’t the fault of either employee or employer, but a court order gave the employee his job back thanks to his union.

TTC dismisses 73 people over alleged multimillion-dollar benefits fraud scheme (Read it)
Employees knowingly participated in a health benefits scam with Healthy Fit, the Toronto Transit Commission’s health products & services provider. Healthy Fit would inflate expenses or issue false receipts for employees to claim and both parties would split the proceeds.

Lots of lessons for employers (and employees) behind the headlines:

  1. Have clear policies and make sure that everyone sticks to them (Burger King and Chalmers Hospital cases).
  2. Know that decision makers (judges and arbitrators) might have a different view of the employment relationship than you do (Burger King and Chalmers Hospital cases).
  3. Follow up on concerns you hear from other employees, the public and customers (TTC).
  4. Get expert help when things are getting serious (termination is the “capital punishment” of the employment relationship – judges and arbitrators want to know that the decision to terminate was well thought out).
  5. Just because something is not “criminal” does not mean termination is not appropriate (TTC).
  6. Do not let one bad case change how you approach your decision making. In the Chalmers Hospital case, one could be persuaded that the arbitrator did not take the public’s interest to heart (the reinstated employee was responsible for sanitation in a health care facility but clearly lacks good judgement).

Following up on headlines about work can be a fun way to follow trends in employment and labour law – unless you are the employer in the headline. You can take the steps to avoid putting your company in the headlines by using some common sense, keeping policies up-to-date, and following up with potential concerns for both you and your employees.

If you need help with policies, employee relations, or just need some advice on your human resources policies/procedures, give HR West a call!

Kevin Woolliams

Kevin Woolliams is the Managing Director of HR West Consulting Ltd (hrwest.ca). HR West provides human resource services across Western Canada with a strong emphasis on the hospitality industry.

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