Johnny C. Taylor Jr., a human-resources expert, is tackling your questions as part of a series for USA TODAY. Taylor is president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management, the world’s largest HR professional society.
What do you do when an issue arises and you work for a small company without an HR department or representative?
Your supervisor often is the go-to person when problems come up in the workplace, and that’s generally where I would suggest you turn first.
But your question is a reminder that HR has many responsibilities in an organization, so I’d like to share more information with you.
It’s common for a very small workplace not to have an HR department. Organizations of fewer than 50 employees sometimes don’t have a dedicated HR staff, or they have an HR “department of one.”
But even in the smallest of businesses, there are people to turn to when issues come up. Company policies and procedures also can guide you.
The nature of the issue and the organizational structure of the business usually determine where to go for answers to HR-related questions. Here’s my advice:
Personnel issues: Usually, the first step is to go to your supervisor. But if your supervisor is the problem and you cannot solve the issue one-on-one, then go directly to your supervisor’s boss or the business owner for help.
Employee benefits (paid leave, health care, etc.): Seek guidance from someone internally, such as an office manager or payroll administrator. When the question involves insurance or retirement savings, you might be able to contact the insurer, carrier or financial services company directly for assistance.
Federal or state law: When the matter is about employment law (harassment or discrimination, for example), go to a supervisor, manager or even the owner of the company immediately.
In any case, always talk to someone in authority at your organization if you have a concern that needs resolution. If you still need guidance after these conversations, outside agencies such as your state’s Department of Labor or federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission may be able to help.
The questions are submitted by readers, and Taylor’s answers below have been edited for length and clarity.
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