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Workplace Law Again Dominates HRPA Conference 2012. Why is that?

Not to flog a dead horse, but here I go again.

I’ve noted before how I can’t grasp why Employment Law is not a required course to obtain the CHRP designation which is supposed to indicate to employers and the public that a person is an expert in all things related to the HR profession.  Every HR person I have spoken to agrees that the absence of a law course requirement is inexplicable.  I can’t count how many  Masters of HRM students have expressed surprise that the law course in the MHRM at York is not a mandatoryrequirement to obtain the MHRM degree. Yet, students in my Employment Law courses who intend to go on to careers in HR still receive no credit towards their designation for completing the course.   Knowledge of law is not considered important enough to warrant inclusion in the list of skills HR managers are expected to be well-versed in. 

This year’s HRPA Conference, as always, is chalk full of law sessions.  A quick count of sessions taught by or about law-related subjects puts the number near 25!  You can’t swing a dead horse without hitting a lawyer at this conference.   So law is crucial enough to the HR profession to take up a large segment of the annual confernence of the professional, yet not important enough to warrant any formal education in the subject matter to become a designated HR professional.   

Is the idea that while law is important, it is something that should be left to hired lawyers to deal with?  If so, perhaps the purpose of legal education for HR people is not to teach them legal rules, but to give them just enough information that they know to call a lawyer. 

Is that what is happening?  What do you think?

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7 Responses to Workplace Law Again Dominates HRPA Conference 2012. Why is that?

  1. Dharsha Q Reply

    February 1, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    I agree with everything you are saying, and as a member of the HRPA and someone with a CHRP designation, I definitely see the need for a stronger foundation in employment law.

    Now, one of the courses required to get the HRM certificate is Labour Relations, but this is certainly not enough. Besides, most HR folks work in non-union environments. Another example of this is reflected in the National Knowledge Exam; the questions are broken down into 7 HR-related areas – Employee and Labour Relations accounts for only 10.4% vs. the 18.8% that Training & Development gets.

    Last year, my employer spent over 3/4 of a million dollars on (HR related) legal fees – why are we relying on these lawyers? What’s that saying about teaching someone to fish so that he can feed himself for a lifetime. HRPA – teach us how to fish so we won’t need to call our bay street lawyers.

  2. Dharsha Q Reply

    February 1, 2012 at 5:09 pm

    I agree with everything you are saying, and as a member of the HRPA and someone with a CHRP designation, I definitely see the need for a stronger foundation in employment law.

    Now, one of the courses required to get the HRM certificate is Labour Relations, but this is certainly not enough. Besides, most HR folks work in non-union environments. Another example of this is reflected in the National Knowledge Exam; the questions are broken down into 7 HR-related areas – Employee and Labour Relations accounts for only 10.4% vs. the 18.8% that Training & Development gets.

    Last year, my employer spent over 3/4 of a million dollars on (HR related) legal fees – why are we relying on these lawyers? What’s that saying about teaching someone to fish so that he can feed himself for a lifetime.
    HRPA – teach us how to fish so we won’t need to call our bay street lawyers.

  3. Gordon C Reply

    February 2, 2012 at 3:59 am

    I also agree with your article. As a long suffering employee of a major Canadian railway, I find myself wondering where they find their HR people. This company has lost a number of CIRB cases, one memorable one concerning discrimination based of family status, and are currently in front of the board on a massive complaint filed by employees in Vancouver. Add to the pile various privacy complaints with the Office of the Privacy Commissioner and throw in a class action suit by their own managers and a picture starts to emerge. These people have no training! PIPEDA might as well be written in cylabics or sanskrit. The labour code too.

  4. Joanne Reply

    February 2, 2012 at 10:32 am

    I wonder if the ommission is to avoid being considered a paralegal or quasi-legal professional and be required to be part of the Law Society of Upper Canada (speaking form Ontario obviously.

    Personally, I find that education as a paralegal(years ago, before I even knew what HR was and before paralegals were recognized for anything other than real estate searches) has been invaluable to my success and ability to avoid or minimize using lawyers for a great deal of work, thus saving the organization some money.

  5. Bob Barnetson Reply

    February 2, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    The lack of engagement by the HRM field in the legal aspects of employment is not limited to the CHRP law-gap. Look at virtually any basic HR textbook in Canada and they have a nice section on statutory law and a section on labour relations but virtually no information about the common law basis of employment relationships and what that entails.

    To be fair, this gap keeps me (as a teacher) in business (!) but it is a bizarre omission. And leads students into all manner of confusion (e.g., between minimum and reasonable notice in discussion of termination).

    We require students to complete either a labour law or employment law course in their program and the vast majority (10:1) choose employment law (and some take both). Subjectively, there is a huge improvement in students’ ability to do case studies after they have a basic grounding in employment law.

  6. Better stay anonymous Reply

    February 2, 2012 at 4:59 pm

    Joanne’s observation is right on. If HRPA attempts to make legal knowledge mandatory, the powerful Law Society of Upper Canada will hit back hard to protect its turf. During the regulation of paralegals debate a couple of years ago, the LSUC came close to making HR professionals fall under LSUC jurisdiction, until HRPA successfully obtained an exemption. By keeping the level of employment law knowledge suppressed among HR professionals, the employment lawyers are guaranteed a steady stream of income from training, investigation, negotiation and litigation. The way it is now, every time an HR person has an HR question that touches the law ever so gently needs to call us an employment lawyer for a consultation, meaning charging by the hour. And employment lawyers are treated like gods in HR conferences, which makes them feel good.

  7. Reagan Ruslim Reply

    February 2, 2012 at 7:05 pm

    I agree with your position wholeheartedly Professor Doorey. In addition to being a lawyer, I have my CHRP designation. I can’t understand how one can hold themselves out there as a Human Resources Professional without even an introductory class in employment law. In fact, with respect to the HRPAO, the whole learning model and knowledge base behind the CHRP seems seriously flawed, in my opinion. The multiple choice format doesn’t provide an opportunity for students to demonstrate the integrated thinking needed to solve most HR problems or challenges.

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