3 HR horror stories that will make you cringe


Harassment, age discrimination and lawsuits galore – here’s a roundup of some of the most interesting HR horror stories from across the globe.

There are accounting failures, legal snafus and sales pitches that go all wrong, but the “human” in Human Resources means HR will always be the department with the best/worst anecdotes. Truthfully, HR horror stories are often just the pointier end of everyday HR conundrums. Which is to say, the tale that keeps you up at night is the tale you can learn from.

1. A recruitment discrimination lawsuit, even though nobody was hired

In the US state of Michigan a company tried and failed to get an age discrimination lawsuit dismissed on the grounds that nobody got the job. Why didn’t the court throw the case out? Because when it comes to recruitment, you can’t just hide your words away.

The 67 year old job applicant who initiated the lawsuit, Frank Branham, was going for a general maintenance position at Detroit Baptist Manor retirement community. The company’s director of operations admitted to telling Branham, that he “was not looking to hire anyone at [Branham’s] age because he had enough staff that was 40 or 50-year-old guys. He needed younger men that can be able to climb ladders and get on the roof.”

Problematic as that might be, nobody younger was hired. So why does the case continue? It turns out not filling a vacancy just to avoid a lawsuit isn’t enough to avoid a lawsuit.

In reaction to his interview Branham got in contact with the retirement home’s HR and complained about being dismissed arbitrarily because of his age. Only then did the company decide not to recruit anyone. Now it’s up to a jury to decide if that suspicious chain of events is a coincidence.

Read our report on the age old problem of age discrimination.

2. You’re not hired, also here’s what’s wrong with you

Have you ever been asked by a candidate why they didn’t get the job? It can be a delicate matter. On the other hand, have you ever told a candidate – during the job interview – why they were unemployable? And then expected them to be grateful? This woman did.

In Hong Kong, HR professionals often share their experiences on an internet discussion group to get their colleagues’ perspective on difficult and strange issues. Late last year, such a professional posted her story about a failed candidate and her cohorts didn’t just give feedback, they gave pushback.

It’s not hard to see why, in the interview she accused the candidate of changing jobs because he wasn’t talented enough to get a promotion, told him his Australian education was just a bad cover for his poor local marks and, when he decided that the interview was too much for him, she said, “You are leaving? You are so impolite. You should thank me for granting the opportunity to meet you and giving you guidance.”

Do you think she was too harsh? Read our guide on how to deal with unsuccessful applicants.

3. A bag of phallic lollies: Joke or harassment?

You may not know this (and you may not want to know this) but there’s a US company called D**ks By Mail whose name is quite literal – for $15 they will anonymously mail someone a bag of inappropriately shaped candy. That company is being sued by the HR director of a different company in an attempt to discover who sent her the rather distasteful confectionary.

HR professionals are not strangers to being unfairly targeted, but not only was this beyond the pale, the director believes it was just the latest in a series of anonymous harassing moves that have included keying her car and posting cruel Craigslist articles.

Okay, so not all HR horror stories have lessons. Or at least most people already know that, no matter how well intentioned, you shouldn’t send penises by mail.

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Lilian Downey

As an HR professional, these stories horrify but don’t surprise me! I’ve had several experiences of discrimination myself. One example, having passed through three interviews to be introduced to the Managing Director (potentially my new boss). He greeted me with “I must say I am very disturbed that your career history shows “you” were made redundant on two occasions” I calmly reminded him we were just coming out of a global financial crisis. I asked if he’d like me to talk him through my skills and experience and why I felt I was suitable for the role. He refused to… Read more »

More on HRM

3 HR horror stories that will make you cringe


Harassment, age discrimination and lawsuits galore – here’s a roundup of some of the most interesting HR horror stories from across the globe.

There are accounting failures, legal snafus and sales pitches that go all wrong, but the “human” in Human Resources means HR will always be the department with the best/worst anecdotes. Truthfully, HR horror stories are often just the pointier end of everyday HR conundrums. Which is to say, the tale that keeps you up at night is the tale you can learn from.

1. A recruitment discrimination lawsuit, even though nobody was hired

In the US state of Michigan a company tried and failed to get an age discrimination lawsuit dismissed on the grounds that nobody got the job. Why didn’t the court throw the case out? Because when it comes to recruitment, you can’t just hide your words away.

The 67 year old job applicant who initiated the lawsuit, Frank Branham, was going for a general maintenance position at Detroit Baptist Manor retirement community. The company’s director of operations admitted to telling Branham, that he “was not looking to hire anyone at [Branham’s] age because he had enough staff that was 40 or 50-year-old guys. He needed younger men that can be able to climb ladders and get on the roof.”

Problematic as that might be, nobody younger was hired. So why does the case continue? It turns out not filling a vacancy just to avoid a lawsuit isn’t enough to avoid a lawsuit.

In reaction to his interview Branham got in contact with the retirement home’s HR and complained about being dismissed arbitrarily because of his age. Only then did the company decide not to recruit anyone. Now it’s up to a jury to decide if that suspicious chain of events is a coincidence.

Read our report on the age old problem of age discrimination.

2. You’re not hired, also here’s what’s wrong with you

Have you ever been asked by a candidate why they didn’t get the job? It can be a delicate matter. On the other hand, have you ever told a candidate – during the job interview – why they were unemployable? And then expected them to be grateful? This woman did.

In Hong Kong, HR professionals often share their experiences on an internet discussion group to get their colleagues’ perspective on difficult and strange issues. Late last year, such a professional posted her story about a failed candidate and her cohorts didn’t just give feedback, they gave pushback.

It’s not hard to see why, in the interview she accused the candidate of changing jobs because he wasn’t talented enough to get a promotion, told him his Australian education was just a bad cover for his poor local marks and, when he decided that the interview was too much for him, she said, “You are leaving? You are so impolite. You should thank me for granting the opportunity to meet you and giving you guidance.”

Do you think she was too harsh? Read our guide on how to deal with unsuccessful applicants.

3. A bag of phallic lollies: Joke or harassment?

You may not know this (and you may not want to know this) but there’s a US company called D**ks By Mail whose name is quite literal – for $15 they will anonymously mail someone a bag of inappropriately shaped candy. That company is being sued by the HR director of a different company in an attempt to discover who sent her the rather distasteful confectionary.

HR professionals are not strangers to being unfairly targeted, but not only was this beyond the pale, the director believes it was just the latest in a series of anonymous harassing moves that have included keying her car and posting cruel Craigslist articles.

Okay, so not all HR horror stories have lessons. Or at least most people already know that, no matter how well intentioned, you shouldn’t send penises by mail.

1
Leave a reply

avatar
100000
  Subscribe to receive comments  
Notify me of
Lilian Downey
Guest
Lilian Downey

As an HR professional, these stories horrify but don’t surprise me! I’ve had several experiences of discrimination myself. One example, having passed through three interviews to be introduced to the Managing Director (potentially my new boss). He greeted me with “I must say I am very disturbed that your career history shows “you” were made redundant on two occasions” I calmly reminded him we were just coming out of a global financial crisis. I asked if he’d like me to talk him through my skills and experience and why I felt I was suitable for the role. He refused to… Read more »

More on HRM