HR Wants To Meet! What Do I Do?

How to prepare when you get the call to meet with HR

Businesswoman sitting in armchair, blurred foreground
Getty Images/PhotoAlto
You get the call or the email and your heart sinks to your feet. HR wants to meet with you. Unless you think a promotion or raise is in the works, a meeting with HR is usually something employees dread. But if you do some basic preparation, you can be ready for anything.

Here are some things HR may want to meet with you about, and what you should do:

You complained about discrimination or harassment: HR must investigate if you complain about race, age, sex, religious, genetic information, national origin, pregnancy, disability or other illegal discrimination or harassment. If they want to talk to you about your complaint, don't refuse! If you do, then you wasted your time complaining and they'll note that you refused to cooperate. Instead, go in prepared.

Gather your evidence and witness names supporting how you were singled out compared to others in a different category (race, age, sex, etc.), how you (and any others) were harassed compared to others in a different category, and any comments made related to you and others relating to your category. Make notes and take them with you so you don't forget anything.

Don't complain about "harassment" or "hostile environment" that isn't connected to race, age, sex, etc. General harassment and bullying aren't illegal, so you aren't protected against retaliation if you report these.

After the meeting, write up a summary of what you reported. Make sure you say the words, "age discrimination," "sexual harassment," "race-based harassment," "religious discrimination" or whatever specific type of discrimination you reported. If you don't, then HR may claim later you reported a personality conflict or bullying instead of something illegal.

Discipline: If you are being disciplined or investigated relating to potential discipline, don't freak out, storm out, or yell during the meeting. You don't want to compound the situation by being insubordinate. Instead, take good notes about the accusation. If you are asked to sign a document, sign and write something next to or above your name like, "as to receipt only, rebuttal to follow." Then wait until you are calm and prepare a businesslike response with any supporting documents and submit to HR.

If you are asked questions during the meeting, be truthful. Some employees lie or don't tell the whole truth because they panic. If you lie or are perceived as lying, you can be fired for that, whether or not you did what you are being accused of.

Crime: If you are being asked about a crime you committed, don't answer. It's time to contact a criminal defense attorney. Don't sign anything admitting to a crime. If HR or Loss Prevention tries to tell you that you can save your job if you admit to a crime, they are lying.

Termination: If you are being fired, stay calm. Don't sign anything they put in front of you. Instead, ask for a copy to take home and review. You aren't thinking straight. You may be asked to sign a severance agreement giving up any legal claims you may have. They may even stick something in there saying you can't work for a competitor. Even if it's "just" a disciplinary document, don't sign it. They can't make you do anything now. You don't work for them anymore. Take good notes of what they are saying is the reason for the termination. Get copies of anything you can documenting what they are saying.

Don't run out of the office shouting, try to get your coworkers to leave with you, or cause a scene. The work world is small and you may end up working with these folks again someday. If you don't understand a contract you're being asked to sign, or think you may have claims against the company, contact an employment lawyer in your state about your rights. For more about what to do if you think you're about to be fired, read my article here.


If you need legal advice, it's best to talk to an employment lawyer in your state, but if you have general legal issues you want me to discuss publicly here, whether about discrimination, working conditions, employment contracts, medical leave, or other employment law issues, you can ask me at AOL Jobs. While I can't answer every question here, your question might be featured in one of my columns, or in our upcoming live video chat.
Donna Ballman

Donna Ballman

Contributor

Donna Ballman’s book, Stand Up For Yourself Without Getting Fired: Resolve Workplace Crises Before You Quit, Get Axed or Sue the Bastards, was the Winner of the Law Category of the 2012 USA Best Books Awards and is currently available for purchase.Donna is the award-winning author of The Writer’s Guide to the Courtroom: Let’s Quill All the Lawyers, a book geared toward informing novelists and screenwriters about the ins and outs of the civil justice system. She’s been representing executives, physicians and employees in Florida, including negotiating severance agreements and litigating discrimination, sexual harassment, noncompete agreements, and other employment law issues since 1986. Her blog on employee-side employment law issues, Screw You Guys, I’m Going Home, was named one of the 2011, 2012 and 2013 ABA Blawg 100 best legal blogs, Paralegal 411’s Top 25 Labor and Employment law Blogs of 2013 and the 2011 Lexis/Nexis Top 25 Labor and Employment Law Blogs.

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November 19 2013 at 10:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
yellowmxwheels

I'm going through something similar. My company is going from a 4 diamond resort to a 5 diamond and I was told a few weeks ago that in order to keep my job that I would have to reapply and audition for my current position. I got a call from HR a few days later saying that I wouldn't be getting an audition because "with your beard, we feel you are not approachable to guests" (A beard I have had the entire time I've been there(6 years) She then tells me "If you shave it you can audition" I then remind her that I have it for religious reasons which my immediate supervisors knew about. Her voice then started shaking and she ended the call real quick. All of the auditions have passed so now I'm waiting to be laid off. My supervisors are not that happy with HR right now because I'm a good worker with no write ups or Guest complaints. Anyone know a good Attorney in San Diego?

November 15 2013 at 12:32 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Sparticus

HR, The Executives way to puss out of firing their own employees

November 14 2013 at 9:53 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
LA is Best

I wish that HR would call 0bama in!

November 14 2013 at 7:38 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
merstockgto

I worked for a large New York bank for 6 yrs and 10 mos. I had a good attendance record and no discipline problems. I was a model employee like I was for another employer I worked for for 29 yrs and 3 mos. I was 60 when I started for this bank. The management is terrible from the bottom on up and really was not a good place to work. Very depressing because of the people that were in management. No incentive as far as good job well done or monetary rewards. Anyway when I had planned to retire in Feb. 2011 three months prior. I gave my retirement notice 2 hours before my shift was up. I got a lump sum retirement for the 7 yrs but I noticed on the stock purchase plan I was in, it says I was terminated but I gave notice that day and was gone for good. They put terminated on there to just try and get one last lick in but I was 67 and on ssn and have am in good financial shape. If they thought I wanted to work for that place again they are crazy and besides with my age and all I don't need them. It is funny they let some good people go with no notice but that was fine but they do not like it when someone else pulls what they do all the time. I had never left like that before but those in management left me no choice as I owed them big time.

November 13 2013 at 11:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
BRYANT

Worked in personnel for years (I don't call it "human resources" because that sounds like slavery). Most of the time there was some kind of conflict between the boss and employee. If it was documented and justified I removed the employee, if not - not. There are a lot of other things you can do - transfer, mediate or counsel. Occasionally I found people who were hot heads or crrooks, like some here, and I discharged them - not good for the company.

November 13 2013 at 11:03 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
andreiib

HR people are the lowest forms of life on the planet. They will lie, cheat, fabricate and falsify anything they have to to make the boss happy. I got fired from my last job because I thought I had crossed the line and pissed off one of our biggest contractors (I thought they were cheating us and the customers) . Well I was half right. They WERE cheating the customer and were in cahoots with my boss for the money. I was nosing around and making a stink and they wanted to bury me and this other guy so they cooked up a BS reason (fabriciated a nonexistent attendance issue) and fired me. I was so ticked at the classless way they handled it I just accepted the paperwork without contesting and left. I could have gotten unemployment and possibly sued for wrongful termination. The other guy and I did not get some measure of revenge. We reported them to the Federal Trade Commission...

November 13 2013 at 9:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jumeaujs1

to EUROCARDRIVER - FABRICATE, FABRICATE, FABRICATE - LIE, LIE, LIE!!! What kind of morals do you have - IF YOU HAVE ANY? TELL THE TRUTH - NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS - THE TRUTH ALWAYS WORKS IN YOUR BEST INTEREST.

November 13 2013 at 5:55 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
jumeaujs1

I agree with all of the above points EXCEPT the CRIME section. If you are GUILTY - take resonsibility for what you did. Lying or getting an attorney to try and get away with it is MORALLY WRONG! If you did it - take responsibility for your actions. Advising someone to "get an attorney" is just telling them to try to get away with it.

November 13 2013 at 5:52 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
eurocardriver000

Tape record the entire conversation, fabricate a bit and make a case in your favor and then... SUE FOR $$$

If you are about to get laid off or fired, then prior to the HR meeting, fabricate a story of how your boss threatened you, then go see your private attorney and sue the Company for major $$$$

It's all about the $$$$ SUE THEM PRIOR TO AN HR VISIT

November 13 2013 at 1:34 PM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply

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