Suzanne Lucas

Back Writer

Suzanne Lucas spent 10 years in corporate human resources, where she hired, fired, managed the numbers and double-checked with the lawyers. Read more at www.evilhrlady.org. On Twitter @RealEvilHRLady.

(illustration: John Chase)

(illustration: John Chase)

By this person

Dilemma of the Month: Drug Testing New Hires

We drug test new hires at my company. When a potential employee’s test comes back positive it’s easy enough to rescind the offer, but we had a candidate have a test returned “negative but diluted” and we rescinded the offer. The candidate had already given two weeks’ notice at his current company and they won’t take him back. Did we do the right thing?

Dec 7, 2017 Suzanne Lucas

Dilemma of the Month: Snooping on Employee Email

I have an employee who hasn’t been performing well. Last week, she was out sick again and I needed a report. I tried to call her, but she didn’t answer. So, I asked IT if I could get the report from her email, and they gave me access to her inbox. I found the report, but curiosity overcame me, and I opened a few other emails. I feel totally guilty — I snooped. Is this legal? Is it moral? What do I do with this information?

Nov 2, 2017 Suzanne Lucas

Dilemma of the Month: Changing the Terms of Employment

My assistant “Jane” has a reduced work week, from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. I agreed to this when she was hired. However, two years later, I now need her to work more hours. I don’t need or want to hire an additional person — I just need her to work an 8-hour day. But she doesn’t want to. What can I legally do?

Oct 5, 2017 Suzanne Lucas

Dilemma of the Month: Retracting a Job Offer

I recently made an offer to a new director of communications for my company. However, I then found out this individual had posted to Facebook asking friends for feedback on two job offers — one for my company and another for a local competitor. I was horrified and I want to remove my offer. Any advice on how to tactfully prevent this from happening in the future?

Sep 7, 2017 Suzanne Lucas

Dilemma of the Month: He Said, She Said

We have a female employee who reported sexual harassment from a male coworker. The woman didn’t want to come forward, but once the CEO found out, he felt he had an obligation to handle the claim. We currently are without an HR manager. What is the proper way to handle this? Should an investigation be made? 

Aug 3, 2017 Suzanne Lucas

Dilemma of the Month: Managing an Insubordinate Subordinate

I recently received a promotion, so two months ago I hired “Jane” to assume the role of my former position. Since she’s been here, Jane has constantly undermined me. She has told lies about my character and my productivity to other employees. It is quite obvious that she intends to do whatever she can to show that I am not fit for my new role. What is the best way for me to document her behavior?

Jul 5, 2017 Suzanne Lucas

Dilemma of the Month: Abruptly Made a Manager

Yesterday, I was an individual contributor who did technical work. This morning, a group of my coworkers and I found out that we are now expected to manage about 10 non-exempt staff each. Overnight! There’s no title change, no increase in salary — just added work and stress. We are told we have no choice and have to take on that extra work because the company’s success or failure depends on us. Can they just make us managers without asking? Do we have the right to turn down these positions?

Jun 1, 2017 Suzanne Lucas

Dilemma of the Month: Job Title Woes

I am an inside sales representative for a medical device company. I work hard to build relationships over the phone to sell and consult on products. When I was hired, the president specifically told me this was not a telemarketing job. Recently, I caught the president introducing our team as “the telemarketers.” Is this a sign I should go back to school asap or find another job?

May 4, 2017 Suzanne Lucas

Dilemma of the Month: Getting People to Give Notice

We service clients who are kids in the foster care system. We really value when our employees that resign give at least a three-weeks’ notice, so they can transition their clients — kids who have already had upheaval in their lives — to their team members before they leave. Is there any meat that we can put on the bones of a policy requiring a three-week notice, with some type of consequence for not providing this notice?

Mar 30, 2017 Suzanne Lucas

Dilemma of the Month: How to Lay Off an Employee

We are reorganizing and will be eliminating one position. We will have to lay this person off, and I have a few questions about how to handle it: Who needs to be in the room when we tell her? How much severance should we offer? What else do I need to do?

Mar 9, 2017 Suzanne Lucas

Dilemma of the Month: Holding Exempt Employee Accountable

Last year, we hired someone to run our small business, and we paid him very well. However, he was always coming in late, taking Fridays off, calling in sick, having car trouble and dentist appointments, etc. He was an exempt employee, so we kept paying him as if he was there all the time. He quit and we don’t want to have the same problems with the new hire.

Feb 2, 2017 Suzanne Lucas

Dilemma of the Month: My Boss Gossips

My boss is a gossiper. I’ve worked at this company for two years.The first year it wasn’t bad, but she gradually started to say negative things to me about my colleague. As I started to hear more, I couldn’t handle it. I told HR the truth and was advised to speak with my boss’s immediate boss. Our team includes only four people, and I feel my boss will know who complained. 

Jan 12, 2017 Suzanne Lucas

Dilemma of the Month: Possible Gender Discrimination

I have been in my current job for about one year. I have been working in my industry for eight years and have an MBA. When I applied, the minimum experience was two years. I have more industry experience and more education. How am I not supposed to see this as gender discrimination?

Nov 30, 2016 Suzanne Lucas

Dilemma of the Month: My Boss is Leaving the Company

My boss told me she is resigning. She has given a month’s notice, says she is leaving for a position that will help her grow professionally.Will my new boss be as transparent and flexible and interested in developing me professionally as my current boss? What will I do if we don’t work together well?

Suzanne Lucas

Dilemma of the Month: Terminated for Breaking Company Policy

I was recently let go from a job due to accessing information on our system that I had been taught was allowed. HIPAA guidelines show no issue with getting this information because it was requested. I did break a policy (that I was unaware of), and the company did not wish to discuss the matter further.

Sep 22, 2016 Suzanne Lucas

Dilemma of the Month: New Overtime Laws

I’m a business owner in California and I’m worried about the impact of the new overtime wage rules in the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. How can I best prepare my business for the changes caused by the regulations?

Jul 18, 2016 Suzanne Lucas
(Design by Sara Bogovich; elements from Shutterstock)

Dilemma of The Month: Fragrance in the Work Place

I recently developed a sensitivity to fragrances. I get headaches, suffer from vertigo and generally feel awful. My boss allowed me to post signs that say “Fragrance-Free Zone,” but some people persist in wearing fragrances. I’m non-exempt and can’t work from home: Part of my job is to take notes in meetings, and the biggest fragrance offenders are in these meetings. What can I do?

Jun 3, 2016 Suzanne Lucas
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Dilemma of the Month: Saying ‘No’ to New Titles

How to tell an employee they aren't C-suite material

We are hiring for a new senior marketing position, and I decided to go with CMO for the title to help recruit a rock star from within our industry to potentially serve as my No 2. My director of fundraising, who I personally recruited four years ago, wants her title changed to Chief Advancement Officer for parity. She does good work but in my mind is not C-level material.

Apr 7, 2016 Suzanne Lucas
(iStock)

Dilemma of the Month: When a Personal Matter Gets Professional

The less you trust your boss, the more honest you need to be

I am an exempt employee and have been working at my company for just under three years. I recently had a serious medical issue that required me to terminate a pregnancy for my own health. I’ve now had three doctor visits in comparatively short succession, and my supervisor is asking why. Since this is an incredibly personal matter, I’m wondering how much I am required to disclose?

Mar 3, 2016 Suzanne Lucas
(Shutterstock)

Digital Hiring

Don't sink too much cash into online job sites

I’m overseeing the hire of a new leadership position. We want to post the position online, but there are so many options, including up-sells to “featured posting” and the like. How do I write a compelling job description that will attract top-notch potential employees, and how do I best use my dollars — some of these sites are expensive!

Jan 5, 2016 Suzanne Lucas
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I’m Exempt — What Does That Mean?

If you feel you're owed flexibility, you're wrong

I just started a new job where I am an exempt employee. When I started, I was asked to provide a “regular work schedule” that I selected as 7:30 a.m.-4:00 p.m. When I inquired about coming in at 8:30 on Monday and Friday mornings, my employer said they didn’t favor that and as a new employee,  I didn’t feel comfortable pushing back. As an exempt employee, what are the rules about standard hours?

Dec 3, 2015 Suzanne Lucas
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Can I Be Written Up For This?

What to do when your conduct is questioned

Recently my boss went out of town. Upon her return, she called me and my co-worker into her office to tell us that our HR person emailed her while she was out and said someone in the office complained about us being too loud. Yes, we were joking and laughing, but no one came to me to complain or ask that we lower our voices. Still, my supervisor told me the incident is going on my record. I feel like I’m in kindergarten even asking for advice on this, but can I really be written up for talking loudly?

Aug 10, 2015 Suzanne Lucas
(Shutterstock)

I Think My Boss is Stealing From Me

If the compensation package isn’t signed, do I wave goodbye to my commission?

I am a new hire at a Fortune 100 tech company. It’s a sales position, and just days into the job I landed my first sale — a big one. I am about to close my second sale and was excited until I was told that because my compensation package had not yet been signed and finalized, I would not be receiving nearly $5,000 in commission for these deals. I’m angry, and I don’t know what to do to get paid and make sure this doesn’t happen again.

Jul 2, 2015 Suzanne Lucas
Intern management requires many, many binders.(Shutterstock)

Are Interns Worth It?

Here's what you need to know before bringing one on

Our small company is considering bringing on two or three summer interns. Half of me thinks this is a great way to get some help with projects, tap into the knowledge of a younger generation and give back to our local students. The other half of me thinks this is going to be a management nightmare that will suck my working hours dry. How can we ensure a successful summer for everyone involved?

May 4, 2015 Suzanne Lucas
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Locking It Down

Relocation is expensive, and it doesn’t pay if the employee doesn’t stay

Last year, I paid someone to relocate for a position with our company. I had the person sign a contract requiring repayment if she left before one year. At one year and two weeks, she quit. Now it’s looking like I need to recruit from out of the area again. Are there any tips you can give me for making sure that the person doesn’t run out the door? 

Mar 4, 2015 Suzanne Lucas
(Shutterstock)

Unpolished Problems

How to politely enforce your dresscode

“We have a male employee whose shirt buttons pop open, leaving his skin exposed. We also have a female employee whose tight clothing reveals her undergarments. This is a horribly awkward and uncomfortable situation, but their attire is not appropriate for the office. How should HR address this?”

Jan 5, 2015 Suzanne Lucas
(Shutterstock)

Sick of Sitting Around?

Don't be surprised if HR won't buy into office furniture fads

I know sitting all day is bad for me, even if I’m getting exercise, so I’d like to try a standing desk. Some of my coworkers would, too. How do I approach my boss about potentially making a change to the way his employees do their work? I have the same question for getting new chairs. I know they’re expensive, but many of us are uncomfortable. How can I convince him that it’s a good idea to spend the money?

Dec 4, 2014 Suzanne Lucas
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Catty Chatting

When you need to reprimand a digitally dubious employee

I manage a group of about 13 people, and we communicate via instant messages. I have one employee who persistently bad-mouthed me in online conversations. I confirmed that he was aware that I could see his messages, and I told him I saw messages that concerned me. Since then, he’s disengaged from his job and is only doing the bare minimum. I feel I should address this with him, but I’m unsure of how to do so.

Nov 5, 2014 Suzanne Lucas
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Finding the Perfect Fit

The Evil HR Lady on how to get a team of introverts working together

About 70 percent of my team are introverts, and all of them were here when I came on board as a manager. They won’t come together to solve problems. In fact, one of my employees told me, “I like to figure things out on my own.” It’s like each one of them lives on an island, and it’s too hard to take their boat over to collaborate. Any advice?

Sep 11, 2014 Suzanne Lucas
www.istockphoto.com

The Quick Quit

Employee retention hinges on a smooth onboarding process

Have you ever arrived at work and realized you don’t remember driving there? It’s kind of a weird feeling, but your consciousness was somewhere else while your subconscious did all the work of traveling, turning, merging and parking. You can do this because your commute is so ingrained that it doesn’t involve any real decision-making. 

Apr 30, 2014 Suzanne Lucas