This Case Study describes how Oasis assisted a client through a complex HR challenge. As a trusted business partner, Oasis was relied upon to minimize risks and produce positive outcomes for the business and employees.
The leadership team of an Oasis client presented a complicated employee relations and potential harassment claim concern to their Oasis HR Business Partner (HRBP). The concern centered around the sharing of sensitive personal information of one employee amongst other employees. The leadership team stated that this was not the only instance of inappropriate information being shared in the workplace. This instance could likely cause immediate, intense conflict amongst employees and potentially leave employees hurt and embarrassed by the personal information being shared. This was foreign territory for this organization, as they generally experience high retention and engagement.
Complicating factors involved in this case were:
1. The employee whose personal information was being shared was not the complainant;
2. The complainant and others were resistant to disclosing details over concerns of retaliation;
3. There was clear evidence that this type of oversharing of inappropriate personal information was prevalent across this work environment, and employees did not see any potential negative impacts.
The Oasis HRBP called the reporting leader within an hour of receiving the initial email; took note of details and facts pertaining to this specific instance and received the name of the employee who had briefly shared the concern with the leader. The HRBP then advised the leader that, if the leadership team was comfortable with it, Oasis would be onsite the following business day to conduct interviews, would take ownership of the investigation going forward, and would report an outcome to the leadership team once complete. The leader happily handed this over.
The next business day the HRBP interviewed the initial complainant and, after reminding the employee of company policies concerning confidentiality and retaliation, the employee shared the details of the situation as well as a list of many other employees to interview. To determine how wide-spread the concern of oversharing was, and to help ensure confidentiality for reporting employees, the HRBP spoke with additional witnesses and individuals.
Over the next two business days, the HRBP interviewed a substantial number of employees who were directly involved with oversharing, as well as those who were not involved, starting with the employee whose personal information was shared. The HRBP directly addressed the concern with this employee, listened to their concerns, reminded the employee of the company policies concerning harassment, confidentiality and retaliation, and assured the employee that the concern would be addressed appropriately.
By utilizing thorough investigation techniques, consistent questioning and stressing the importance of complying with company policies, the HRBP received admissions of guilt from the employees who received the personal information. These employees also provided the names of other employees who received the information, as well as the name of the individual who distributed the information. Shortly after receiving this corroborating information from multiple sources, the HRBP also received an admission of guilt from the employee who had distributed the information.
The HRBP consulted with client leadership to provide corrective action to the involved parties and provided anti-harassment training to the entire workforce. This training also required all employees to read and sign the company’s anti-harassment, discrimination and retaliation policies, as well as reporting expectations.
By addressing this concern quickly and effectively, Oasis helped the client mitigate their risk of a harassment claim and possible lawsuit or settlement. Average lawsuits and settlements for employment claims vary from an average of $40,000 to over a million dollars, depending on the source, but there is also the incalculable negative impact to the company’s reputation and culture to consider. Oasis also mitigated the risk of employees reacting and creating conflict in the workplace by providing corrective action to those involved and stern reminders to all employees of the anti-harassment/discrimination policies, reporting expectations and retaliation policy. Having all employees sign to acknowledge their receipt and understanding of these policies draws a line in the sand to correct the culture of oversharing in the future.
At Oasis, we help you navigate the complexities of employment with a smarter, customized, and effective solution for your workforce. We help you provide attractive and competitive benefits, minimize your employer liability, manage a myriad of HR transactions, and stay on top of the ever-changing state, local, and federal employment regulations. As an accredited Professional Employer Organization (PEO) partner, our services let you get back to doing what you love and focus on your business.