HR’s trial of the century (Editor’s notes)

CIBC lawsuit raises concern about further legal actions
By Todd Humber
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 07/11/2007

The last thing an HR department needs is company policies not worth the paper they’re written on. After all, diligent HR professionals spend a lot of time and effort drafting policies that protect the company legally and provide a blueprint for best practices to help make organizations employers of choice. But, unfortunately, HR’s best efforts can be thwarted by the inconsistent application of policies by managers throughout an organization.

I’ve heard numerous HR professionals over the years talk about how much time they spend talking managers down from a cliff. Whether it’s explaining, “No, you can’t fire Dave for coming back one minute late from lunch,” or that it’s probably not appropriate to refer to female staff members as “babes,” HR sometimes has its hands full ensuring policies and common sense are followed.

That makes the apparent problems at CIBC, which is facing a potential $600-million class-action lawsuit over unpaid overtime, especially frustrating from an HR perspective. The bank says it had a “clearly defined policy” as to how it compensates employees that “exceed legislative requirements.” I haven’t actually seen a copy of the bank’s policy, but it’s pretty safe to assume an appropriate policy on overtime was in place at an organization of that size and stature. But whether it was being followed by managers at branches across the country is an entirely different question.