When Keeping It Real, Goes Wrong in HR

You might have seen this recently in the news. Three HR employees at Wyman-Gordon Company decided it would be a good idea to ‘secretly’ videotape and employee they wanted to terminate. Three HR employees who all had Master degrees in HR, and each with five years of HR experience at this specific employer:

Three employees at Wyman-Gordon company in Grafton, Massachusetts, are facing felony wiretapping charges for setting up a hidden camera with audio to record their coworker inside their workplace, reports CBS Boston.

As the investigative team at CBS Boston first reported in November, the hidden camera allegedly captured former Wyman-Gordon employee Mark Ferguson sleeping on the job. The company fired Ferguson last April.

Prior to his termination, Ferguson discovered the hidden camera in his workspace. He took it home for a closer look.

A clip he provided to CBS Boston revealed the HR employees setting up the camera. They could also be heard discussing the camera placement.

Ferguson realized if they recorded audio without his consent, it could be a violation of Massachusetts wiretapping statute. He brought the camera to the Grafton Police Department. An investigation was launched.

When I first heard about this, I wasn’t all that surprised. I assumed, wrongly, that it was some little company, with HR Pros that had no background or experience with HR. That is common in the industry. There are a ton of unqualified people running HR shops in companies that have no business being in HR.

This wasn’t the case.  All three of these guys had a strong educational background in HR and extensive work experience in HR. I will say, none of their LinkedIn profiles say anything about HR professional certification.  I don’t know about you, but my SHRM certification testing addressed this very issue!

This isn’t a small issue. These are felony charges. You can’t just go, “Oops, we didn’t really understand videotaping a crappy employee sleeping on the job was against the law. Our bad!”

Now, it was against the law, but I understand. Having to go to jail because you suspected an employee sleeping on the job, set up a camera to catch this behavior, and then actually catching the behavior, seems like it should work in the favor of these HR guys. But, it won’t.

So, what should these three HR guys have done? Just fire the employee!

Just fire the employee!  Sure, my brilliance in hindsight is 20/20, but 99.9% of HR pros in the U.S. would have just fired this idiot!

So, why didn’t they just fire him?

This is purely speculation, but my guess is they had an ax to grind with this guy. This guy probably had something over these guys, and they wanted to embarrass him. Maybe he was in a position where management didn’t want him fired, and HR was going to give them a reason they couldn’t ignore. Maybe this employee had just made HR’s life a nightmare over the past however long time.

Who knows, but it seems clear that these guys wanted to do more than just let this employee go. They wanted to shove it down his throat.

That’s when keeping it real, goes wrong!

6 thoughts on “When Keeping It Real, Goes Wrong in HR

  1. “Why didn’t they just fire him?” . I can tell you why – it is a union shop, local 2285 of the United Steel Workers. I have a copy of the 154 page union agreement in front of me. This contract makes is impossible to “fire” anyone, grievance procedures and the NLRB result in hiring back the employee and paying back wages. It happens there all the time. Even HR Pros need to work within the constraints of a collective bargaining agreement.

  2. Part of the issue is the function attracting such risk averse talent. Lots of CYA and legacy employee relations mindset. Plus, aren’t people in HR traditionally in the bottom 1/3 of their college class academically?

  3. We had an employee falling asleep at his desk. We ask him to go visit his doctor to see if there was a medical issue, if he would not go we would have to reprimand him. It came to find out, he did have a medical issue that needed addressed.

  4. Amen. Too many employers want a Perry Mason moment, busting the ee and assuring themselves a smoking gun. “Reasonable suspicion” is a perfectly adequate, and easily defensible, legitimate non-discriminatory reason for an at-will separation.

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