Here's Who to Talk to When HR (and Your Boss) Won't Listen

Companies truly benefit from having a strong Human Resources (HR) department. But alas, not all businesses have gotten the memo. When your boss doesn’t listen (or the problem you’re having is with your boss), HR is supposed to be the place you can turn to for help. But when an HR department underperforms, it can leave employees in a tight spot. So what do you do when neither your boss or HR will listen? Read on for some alternative ideas.

hr no listen

1. First and foremost, follow company procedures

The first step should always be to file a complaint with HR, even if you already have a sneaking suspicion they won’t listen to you. It’s usually better to give a person or department the benefit of the doubt, so allow them the chance to try and fix your grievance. In order to make that easier, PayScale recommends you document everything having to do with the complaint. Whether it’s an issue with another employee, your boss, or even a client, be sure to write down, date, and save as many screenshots, emails, texts, incidents, etc. as possible. This will help build an evidence-based claim HR will have a harder time ignoring than if you simply walk in with a verbal complaint.

2. Contact the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

If you’ve documented all your evidence and HR still refuses to handle your complaint in a satisfactory manner, Business Insider suggests the time may have come for you to go to the EEOC. According to their website, the EEOC’s responsibilities include “enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person's race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability, or genetic information. It is also illegal to discriminate against a person because the person complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.”

These laws apply to all stages of the workplace, including hiring, firing, promotions, harassment, training, wages, and benefits. Most companies that employ at least fifteen to twenty people must follow the EEOC’s guidelines, so if your business qualifies and your complaint falls into one of the above categories, contacting them might be your next best bet. But in situations where you feel like your immediate safety is in peril, you should instead contact the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration.

3. Get outside legal advice


If you’ve presented HR with copious documentation of your complaints and they reject your claim, they must put that rejection in writing. You always have the right to dispute their findings, but it’s very rarely successful. In this case, you should consider seeking outside legal counsel—and be sure to tell HR exactly what you’re planning on doing. Bustle claims that simply announcing your intent to look for help outside of the company may be enough to convince HR to up their game. But if it doesn’t, speaking about your options with an experienced lawyer will help you clarify what your next steps should be—or if there are “next steps” available for you to take.

4. Take your leave

The truth is that, if you’ve taken any or all of the above steps and discover HR really, truly has no interest in remedying the issue(s) you’ve presented to them, your only other option may be to leave the company. Consider whether you would even want to continue working in an office that cares so little about its employees’ wellbeing and, if the answer is “no,” begin looking around for opportunities somewhere else. No, it’s not fair to feel as though you are being forced to leave through no fault of your own, but it is vastly better than the alternative: staying in a workplace where you feel unsafe, unwanted, or unseen.

Serious complaints in the workplace, especially those not satisfactorily handled by a competent HR department, indicate a much larger problem that will not be remedied by repeated complaints. In this case, it’s probably best for your mental health and emotional wellbeing to seek employment elsewhere.

It can be incredibly frustrating to be faced with a seemingly uncaring boss and HR department. But hopefully, by carefully considering the options that are available, you can take your future into your own hands—whether or not you finally get HR to properly respond.

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