SHRM Connect: How to Handle a Situation I've Never Encountered in My Many Years of HR



When employees have questions, they go to HR.

When HR professionals have questions, they often turn to each other for guidance and advice.

SHRM Connect is an online forum where SHRM members can post questions and get answers from their peers within the SHRM community. It’s a great place to network with other HR professionals while sharing solutions and advice on a wide range of HR topics.

Jump into a discussion or watch from the sidelines. There's something for everyone.

Check out some of the latest conversations below:

New Chief Ransacked Controller's Office and Boxed & Moved Belongings!

I come here for support on how to handle a situation, one in which I've never encountered in my many years of HR. I received a call today from a tenured Controller (who has over 25 years of service) who complained that upon entering his office this morning, his office was completely ransacked, and much of his work was relocated (within his office), papers and files were boxed up, papers were placed on shelves, some items discarded, all personal photos relocated from his desk to his window seal, etc. The controller was crying stating he became anxious, depressed and stressed. He doesn't know where to start, and where to find projects that he was working on. He stated if his boss would've asked him to clean up his office, he would've come in over the weekend and cleaned up some. He's been off anxiety pills for 3 weeks but now, all symptoms have returned. He also stated he knows that the new Assistant Controller who is scheduled to start on Monday, is the Chief of Finance (his boss) friend from the past so he has no idea of what is going on and where he stands. Now to bring perspective to this matter, this impacted Controller just experienced a change in his direct report just 3 weeks ago and now reports to our Chief of Finance (who is fairly new himself). When asked do you know who could've done this he replied: I absolutely do, it was my new boss. When asked when did this occur, he replied either after I left yesterday or early this morning.

Background Info:

  • The 25+ year Controller did previously have a quite messy office full of papers and files (all over, including his floor) but he states it's a "neat mess, and he knows exactly where the financials are in each pile".
  • The 25+ year Controller has been dealing with a lot over the last 4 months-divorce, EAP, Death  (upper management is aware).
  • The Chief of Finance has hired his friend as the Assistant Controller and the Controller is worried.


The controller wants to ensure that we tread lightly as he wants to have a great relationship with his new boss as well as the assistant controller who is his new bosses friend who starts on Monday. He feels completely violated and disrespected and all of his staff within the department are talking about the incident and are in complete disbelief. How would you handle this situation and ensure that relationships are not damaged as the employee wants to retire within the next 15 years so he has a lot more to give?

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Transgender Question 

We have a transitioning employee. All his legal documents indicate female and he has not had reassignment surgery, though he's been presenting as male for several years. His name was changed in 2017, but nothing else. For our HR records, we still record everything as female since that's what all his documents say (driver's license, marriage certificate, etc). We use ADP as our HRIS system. It transmits our employee data to our medical, dental, and vision vendors.

Recently, the program being used to transfer employee information between ADP and Anthem changed. We are in the final stages of testing, and this transitioning employee is causing a error on their end. Anthem wants us to change the gender in our system to male. My argument is that we should not; it's not accurate since this person is still legally a female. This is not an issue with any of our other vendors, and if I change it now, it affects them all.

So, what would you do? The gender has never been an issue with Anthem until now. Since HR is providing the information to Anthem, shouldn't we be the ones that have the responsibility for accuracy? We have had other employees that transitioned, and we updated their gender in the system after they provided documentation of the legal change. I'm frustrated that this individual is suddenly an issue.

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Nude Pic - Term?

I have an employee who inadvertently showed a nude picture to her co-worker.

The employee handed her phone over to her co-worker and asked the co-worker to delete a picture from a text message from her husband. Apparently, her husband was trying to surprise her and sent a picture to her rather than his brother to show off the surprise. It was a picture of her Christmas present. As the co-worker was deleting the picture, the employee said "oh you might see some naked picks too." Once the co-worker deleted the picture, the most recently texted picture appeared and yes it indeed was a nude picture of the employee. The employee then laughed and told everyone that the co-worker saw her nude pics.

The co-worker is embarrassed and uncomfortable.

The employee thinks it's funny and doesn't understand what the problem is.

How would you address this? Enough for term?

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Managing the Risk 

I have an FSA-related question and am not able to find any clarity with online research. We offer a Health FSA; and in the past years, we have taken a huge hit following employees who leave before they have fully funded the account for their annual election total. My Finance department wants to end FSA all together, however, our employees love and need this benefit, it is also one of the benefits that new hires hone in on as an attractor to our company plans. I want to find a way to keep the benefit for our employees but also minimize the financial risk to the company.

So here is what I'd like to do, but I am no certain whether I am breaking in laws, regulation, etc.:

Include verbiage in our Benefit Manuals that clearly state that if an employees employment is terminated for any reason, the company will utilize any final pay, severance, etc. that have been used but not yet withheld to recoup funds lost due to the employee leaving prior to the end of the plan year.  An acknowledgment will also be included in the process of enrolling into the benefit that requires the employee's signature.  We would also update our termination policy to include this deduction verbiage as well.

Is this something we can do?  Am I not considering risks?

Thanks in advance for your help and feedback.

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