Human Resources Consulting - Columbia SC

Fair or Consistent, Which Is More Important?

For the last 35 years, I have worked in the Human Resources field. I have primarily worked in hospitals and the financial industry as a Director or Vice President of Human Resources. These employers usually had between 300- 1700 employees.

During those 35 years, I have conducted thousands of interviews. When interviewing a candidate for a management position, one of my favorite questions to ask is, "From a management perspective is it more important to treat your employees fairly or consistently." Some individuals would say that those are synonymous terms. However, in my experience, it is quite possible to treat an employee consistently according to established policy, but at the same time being unfair to that individual based on his/her particular situation, as well as to treat an employee fairly, which may be inconsistent with a company policy or procedure. I usually get some very interesting answers to that question.

So, what is the right answer? To tell the truth, I personally wrestled with the answer to that question for several years. But then I came to an important realization. I determined that one of the primary purposes of my role as the Human Resources professional for any organization was to keep my company out of court. My obligation was to insure, to the best of my ability, that my organization did not become involved in any harassment, discrimination or unfair treatment lawsuits, especially unwinnable lawsuits.

I soon realized that if you treat all employees consistently, according to the established written and disseminated policies and procedures of the company, you will win these types of potential lawsuits. By ALL employees, I mean ALL employees. You must treat your best and worse employees consistently according to your pre-established protocols. Never play “favorites”. Applying a policy in an inconsistent manner, trying to be “fair” to one at the expense of others, could cause the employees to believe that they are being singled out or discriminated against for other reasons. This then leads to lawsuits or EEOC investigations or charges.

During my 35 years in the HR field, I have had to deal with approximately 18 charges of discrimination or unfair treatment which were filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) by disgruntled employees. Of those 18 charges, no employee was ever paid a dime as a settlement. All charges were summarily dismissed by the EEOC after investigation.

All Human Resources professionals also have to deal with employees who routinely file for unemployment compensation after they have terminated from the organization. The key to winning unemployment compensation claims is documentation and again, following written policies and procedures. Throughout my working career, I have successfully defended 98% of all contested unemployment claims which were filed against my company.

I present this information not as a boast but rather to point out that consistency in the implementation and day to day enforcement of an organization’s policies and procedures will make it much easier to fulfill one of the primary objectives of any HR professional, to try to insure that your company is not involved in any unwinnable harassment, discrimination or retaliation lawsuits or EEOC investigations.

A company’s best defense against the potential expense and aggravation related to federal or state law violations is to proactively review and revise as needed their Human Resources policies, handbooks, hiring procedures, compensation, benefits, training programs, communications tools and other functions. The professionals of PHHR are ready to assist your organization maintain compliance with the latest state and federal mandates.

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Paul Hilton Human Resources Consulting works with our clients to insure that all required documentation is correct and sufficient to successfully defend against a claim to any unemployment compensation commission.

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Paul Hilton is a certified Human Resources Consultant, located in Columbia, SC.
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Paul Hilton, Human Resources Consulting, LLC
Columbia, South Carolina
Office: (803) 481-9533
Cell: (803) 305-8962 

Paul Hilton, Human Resources Consulting, LLC