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Common Human Resource (HR) Issues

Updated on December 31, 2012
ChrisMcDade8 profile image

Christine McDade is a Human Resources professional (PHR & SHRM-CP) with over 18 years in the public sector.

HR professionals face many diverse challenges in the workplace.
HR professionals face many diverse challenges in the workplace. | Source

Same Problems, Different Employers

Human Resource professionals in the private, public and nonprofit sectors face many common issues. Whether large or small, employers tend to be challenged with significant and often sensitive employee issues that need to be addressed timely. As times have changed and laws have been passed to level the playing field for all in the workplace, employers rely on their HR professionals to tackle significant problems to keep the workplace a healthy and productive environment for all. Employees, too, rely on their HR professionals to assist them in times of workplace trouble. They recognize the need for trained professionals to handle their situations delicately, while maintaining confidentiality. Human Resource professionals must balance the needs of the employees and the organization to ensure laws are respected, and the work gets done effectively.


Supervisor's Role

Every workplace is made up of different characters who bring different values, beliefs and past experiences to work. From time to time, a difference of opinions promotes some dissension between those who must work side by side with one another on a daily basis. Employees who come to work with a lot of baggage are likely to have some conflict with coworkers which eventually causes some form of disruption in the workplace. This disruption might be a disagreement that interrupts the progress of the work being done. Supervisors will find themselves in the position of trying to solve workplace friction. If they are unable to solve the workplace conflict between the two coworkers, supervisors often contact the HR Department for advice and guidance. If a simple conversation with HR does not provide the needed solution to alleviate the problem, a member of HR may step in to take lead or start an investigation. In addition, certain types of problems reach HR due to the serious nature of the issue. Problems surrounding harassment, discrimination, serious disciplinary issues and potential terminations should be handled in coordination with Human Resources.

Major Employment Laws Which Govern Most Workplaces

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA)
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
Pregnancy Act
Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA)
Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
other states and local laws
Equal Pay Act (EPA)
There are many laws which employers must respect in the workplace.


There are many employee issues that present themselves in an organization to management. Some common problems HR professionals deal with are:

  • Compensation Issues - Salary is near and dear to an employee's heart. Making ends meet and providing for their families, employees are very aware of salaries and what is fair. It is not uncommon for employees to be dissatisfied with their pay. They may feel they are working harder and deserve a better wage. Others may feel that they are underpaid compared to their co workers or others doing similar work in other organizations. The feeling of not being fairly paid is a common sentiment that can cause an organization serious employee relations issues and disharmony.
  • Discrimination/Harassment/Hostile Work Environment - Policies regarding the prevention of and zero tolerance of workplace discrimination, harassment and/or hostile work environment are implemented to provide protections for its employees. Employers observe the policies to provide protections per the laws that have been in place by the federal government. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and other laws provide protections for race/color, national origin, religion, sex, age, disability and pregnancy. Another protected classification, marital status, is covered by some states. Employees who feel they are being mistreated report situations to their supervisor, Human Resources and the EEOC, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
  • Attendance Issues - The unscheduled absences, the proverbial call-in, can place a heavy burden on remaining staff who must pitch in to help pick up the slack from the missing employee. Employers attempt to offer family friendly workplaces but can feel pressure of having fewer staff due to absences. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) protects employees in qualifying situations for a certain number of absences. Employers who qualify for FMLA must observe the regulations that are a part of this important act.
  • Turnover - Employers follow specific recruitment procedures in order to make good hires for the organization. Unfortunately, other employers compete for employees by offering better wages, better perks, etc., which attract employees away from organizations. Turnover of employees is costly because of the time and money that is invested in training employees. and making them a part of the organization. When an employee leaves, there is a lot of cost associated with advertising, screening, conducting background checks, etc., to replace the employee. Sometimes, turnover creates a vicious circle for an organization.
  • Unions, Grievances and Labor Relations - Many employers must work with unions who represent their employees for the negotiation of the terms and conditions of their employment. Negotiating pay, benefits, and policies can be quite challenging for management who is balancing the needs of the organization with the needs of the employees.
  • Performance Evaluation and Corrective Actions - It is important for employers to regularly evaluate performance and address performance issues that arise for employees. Performance evaluations are those important documents that become permanent records in their files.

Common Issues Needing HR's Attention

From petty disagreements to serious charges of discrimination, HR professionals are tasked with handling a variety of issues in the workplace. Both employees and management seek assistance from time to time to solve issues that are challenging and outside their comfort zones. Experienced HR staff will be able to assist employees through difficult issues while balancing the needs of the organization. When both sides are able to work through issues and laws are respected to ensure a healthy work environment, both employees and the organization are successful in the workplace.


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