Human resources professionals are given a great deal of moral, ethical and legal responsibilities. In recruiting, training, reviewing, terminating and working with employees, there are a great deal of ethical ramifications. These positive or negative consequences can have a huge impact on the business at large. In a maze of complicated relationships, business associations, and personnel issues, many in the workplace look to a human resources team for guidance. That is why human resources professionals are encouraged to stick to ethical codes of conduct to guide their behaviors.
Like many other kinds of businesspeople, human resources professionals must contribute to their organization with ethical integrity. Human resources professionals must also comply with the law, make ethical decisions, positively impact their organization and advocate for employees. They are required to commit to a high standard of professional responsibility. They must also, as a function of their profession, be familiar with many types of labor law.
- Employment Law Guide
- Code of Professional Conduct – Three Principals
- Code of Ethics and Professional Responsibility
- ABA Model Code of Professional Responsibility
- Integrity – Definitions
Human resources professionals should be regularly training to update their legal knowledge, to advance their understanding of the business they are working with, and to learn how to improve their practices. Most HR people pursue certifications and/or graduate degrees. Common practice is also to become an HR specialist in a particular field (like recruitment, payroll or benefits). HR generalists will need to continue to update their knowledge through workshops, education and training. Regardless, new HR professionals should assess their progress with their supervisors to find next steps.
- List of HR Certifications
- Preparing for College – Human Resources
- Which MBA?
- 5 Growing Human Resource Specialties
- Self-Assessment: Career Direction
Human resources professionals are tasked with being ethical and moral role models. They must be familiar with "right or right" decision-making. They must also know how to be leaders. This is especially important, due to the fact that a poor ethical decision made by an HR person can affect an entire organization. For example, if you were an employee who caught an HR person stealing company office supplies, how would you feel about the company's policies against workplace theft?
- Ethics and Human Resource Management
- Being a Leader
- Using a Code of Ethics
- How to Prevent Poor Ethical Decision-Making
- Making Ethical Decisions: Process
Fairness and Justice
Ethics, morality and justice are all difficult academic topics, with hundreds of years of philosophical debate. That does not mean that these debates remain static and uninteresting. Business ethics in particular is constantly changing and evolving. Arguably, most people have a hard time pointing out bad ethics until they see it. HR businesspeople need to be familiar with basic ethics to negotiate decisions made by them or other departments. Social justice is becoming a more and more important topic for corporations and businesses, and human resources professionals need to learn about concepts like affirmative action. HR people should create an atmosphere that appreciates individuals and supports businesses. They should take an active role in eliminating bias and providing equal opportunities.
- What is Ethics?
- What are "Ethics"?
- Affirmative Action
- Socially Responsible Human Resource Management
- Justice as Fairness
Conflicts of Interest
There are many different kinds of conflicts of interest, affecting almost all types of businesses, not only those on Wall Street. Favoritism, cronyism and nepotism are actually common if not actively discouraged by business professionals. Usually, producing an employee handbook can help to establish policies on some of these issues. Also, human resources employees should refrain from using bias themselves.
- Conflicts of Interest 50 State Definitions
- Managing Conflicts of Interest
- Example of State Laws: California Conflicts of Interest Guide
- Favoritism, Cronyism, and Nepotism
- Employee Handbook
Use of Information
Confidentiality is a major issue within human resources. A great deal of information needs to be considered confidential, such as social security numbers, medical records and/or credit background checks. A lot of information in employee personnel files should be kept locked in HR. FERPA, HIPAA, the national labor relations act, and many other laws affect confidentiality, and these laws should be reviewed by HR professionals. Other than paperwork, electronic systems also need to be taken into consideration when it comes to confidentiality. Reviewing these systems can also help fight back on identity theft.
- Video: The Laws Regarding Confidential HR Files
- The National Labor Relations Act
- Understanding the Health Insurance Portability Accountability Act (HIPAA)
- Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)
- Disability Discrimination
- Treatment of Confidential Information
- Fighting Identity Theft with Red Flags Rule: A How-To Guide for Business