How can I go to HR about my manager without her retaliating?

I went to the HR manager about my manager’s lack of leadership, fairness in job distribution and exclusion in discussion regarding my job. Now my manger has completely excluded me from the department and its job duties. I’m afraid if I go to the HR manager again as retaliation will be worse. Upper management has backed up my manager with no explanation. I have not been written up for poor performance. What are my options?

3 answers  |  asked Oct 28, 2009 09:23 AM [EST]  |  applies to California

Answers (3)

Elisa Ungerman
There is a persistent myth out there that HR is there for employees and is your friend. That is false. HR is there to protect the Company, not you. HR could care less about you and your complaints, especially if they do not involve illegal activity. Generally, with a few exceptions, employees in California are "at will" and can be treated any way the employer wishes to treat them unless the mistreatment is based on statutorily protected classification or conduct.

All too many times, employees are treated wrongly or unfairly or unethically, or in contravention of good business sense by their managers and that treatment is entirely legal. The courts will not interfere with the business judgment or management style of an employer in how it chooses to treat its employees, even if that treatment is "unfair".

The choices listed by Mr. Itkin pretty much sum up your options.

posted by Elisa Ungerman  |  Oct 28, 2009 10:24 AM [EST]
Janet M. Koehn
I agree with Arkady's response to your question. It's usually not a good idea to complain about your supervisor to HR, unless they are committing illegal acts. However, if you believe you are being treated differently, by your manager, or by HR, or both, on account of protected status (your race, gender, age, sexual orientation, disability, or national origin), the retaliation may be illegal discrimination.

You should contact an attorney skilled in employment law. You can find one in your area at the California Employment Lawyers Association's website,

posted by Janet M. Koehn  |  Oct 28, 2009 10:08 AM [EST]
Arkady Itkin
It is quite common for managers to develop natural hostility towards an employee who complains about them. The important thing to understand is that the manager's retaliatory acts are only illegal and actionable if the retaliation take place in response to complaining about protected activity or exercising your rights under Cal. Fair Employment and Housing Act and a limited number of other provisions. Your complaints about his management style are not a protected activity, and therefore, retaliating against you will not be illegal.

I guess you are facing with a choice of not complaining any more about the management style, seeking transfer or another position or looking for alternate employment if you find it impossible to work with the existing manager.


Arkady Itkin
San Francisco & Sacramento Employment Lawyer

posted by Arkady Itkin  |  Oct 28, 2009 09:30 AM [EST]

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