VP of HRM
Choose a position for or against in the following debate: A viable candidate for VP of HRM in a Fortune 500 corporation should be a practicing attorney specializing in either labor law or employment law.
Write an 8- to 10-page response in which you do the following:
Develop the strongest possible arguments to support your position.
Carefully consider corporate strategies and goals, HR strategies and goals, and the job description and job specifications for the VPHRM position.
Support your responses by using relevant legal statutes and arguments, as well as legal precedents, from the text. In preparing for a debate, identify and address the opposing side’s strongest arguments. For example, if you take the affirmative position, identify the strongest arguments for the denier side; address those arguments in your paper. If you take the opposite position, you must counter the affirmative position using the same mode of preparation.
Arguments for The Debate: A viable candidate for VP of HRM in a Fortune 500 corporation should be a practicing attorney specializing in either labor law or employment law
The realm of human resource management (HRM)is intertwined with law because of the various ways in which HRM is influenced and shaped by both state and federal legislations. Some of the operational legislations in HRM include Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Civil Rights Act of 1991, Equal Pay Act of 1963, and Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, among other laws (Twomey, 2013). These laws and regulations govern almost all aspects of HRM including activities such as recruitment and selection, placement, development, and compensation of the employees. A vice president (VP) of HRM is a person tasked with the smooth and profitable operation of an organization’s HR department. In specific, the VP of HRM supervises and provides consultation to the management on matters to do with strategic staffing, compensations, benefits, as well as labor relations among others (Kaufman et al., 2016). In a Fortune 500 company such as Apple, where the revenues are huge and the number of employees is vast, the role of the VP of HRM is even more profound. In specific, the VP has to deal with complex labor relations and compensations cases that require an advanced knowledge and understanding of labor and employment law. As such, any viable candidate for VP of HRM in a Fortune 500 corporation should be a practicing attorney with specialized knowledge in the areas of ether labor law or employment law. This paper provides the various arguments that support this position.
Arguments for the Debate
Before exploring the aspects that support the position that VP of HRM should be an expert in labor or employment law, it is vital to determine the various corporate and HR strategies and goals as well as the roles and responsibilities of VPHRM. One of the corporate and HR goals of Apple, a Fortune 500 company, is to to ensure that there is effective supervision of its employees and that there are proper strategic staffing plans in place including various compensations, benefits, and labor relation plans. As such, according to Twomey (2013), a person holding a VPHRM position should not only create, but also deliver briefings to the executives on strategic staffing needs. Additionally, the VPHRM should oversee recruitment interview, selection, and the general hiring process of the organization. Moreover, the VPHRM should adhere to all the internal policies as well as the federal and state legal standards on employment and labor relations. More importantly, the person holding the position should defend the organization against any inquiries/grievances/claims by labor unions and lawyers (Kaufman et al., 2016). In the quest to undertake these duties, many VPHRMs have resorted to gaining some knowledge about the existing statutes and regulations to ensure that they have the basics of labor and employment law. However, the only person who can authoritatively deal with labor relation matters and dispense such matters in a competent and professional manner in a practicing attorney with specialization in either labor law or employment law.
Having a practicing attorney with specialty in labor law or employment law as VPHRM of a Fortune 500 company ensures that the VPHRM does not engage in the unlawful practice of law. Notably, there has been tension between the HR and attorneys over the issue of whether HR career professionals are unlawfully practicing law when they engage in labor relations and compensation hearings. In an unemployment compensation hearing, VPHRMs who are not specialists in labor or employment law have participated in the hearings by representing their employers in the proceedings. However, such a practice was deemed to be unlawful practice by a Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court in February 2005. In specific, in Harkness v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review , the Commonwealth Court held that an HR manager, consultant, administrator, and other non-lawyers employed by the respondent-employers, engages in an unauthorized practice of law when such person represents the employer at an unemployment hearing. This judgment served to bar HRMs from representing their employers in such hearings. The holding in this judgement underscores the importance of having a practicing attorney as the VPHRM because he/she would be allowed to represent the company in the compensation hearings. A Fortune 500 company will have an added advantage of having a person who can perform HR duties and also become a legal representative in any compensation hearings.
A Fortune 500 organization will save on the costs of hiring an external attorney to represent it because, whereas practicing attorneys with expertise in either labor law or employment law are allowed to act as legal representatives, those with no legal background cannot. As such, companies that have had their VPHRM as persons without specialty in labor law or employment law have incurred additional costs to conduct basic acts such as the signing petitions for appeal. For non-lawyers holding the position of VPHRM, they are now allowed to sign petitions for appeal. For instance, in Bank of Fayetteville NA v. Dep’t of Workforce Services , the Arkansas Court of Appeals reaffirmed the importance of a practicing attorney as a representative of the company in unemployment benefits determination. In specific, in this case, the Court dismissed the appeal of the bank relating to the Arkansas Board of Review’s unemployment benefits determination solely because a non-lawyer bank employee who signed the petition of appeal was engaging in an unauthorized practice of law. The implication of this decision is that if a Fortune 500 company has a practicing attorney in labor or employment law as their VPHRM, they could save time and money because the VPHRM will not only be able to perform the mandates of HR manager, but also be legally authorized to represent the company in matters pertaining to unemployment benefits determination (Kaufman et al., 2016). Companies should not accept to pay for the services of both a VPHRM as well as an attorney when they can get the same by hiring a practicing attorney as a VPHRM.
The basis for the deployment of a practicing attorney as a VPHRM is the fact that a layperson (a person with no legal expertise) cannot be allowed to represent a corporation in any judicial proceedings. As such, corporations are forced to incur additional costs in hiring an attorney to represent them in a court proceeding. Such a limitation on the part of VPHRMs who are nonlawyers was expressed in Bouland v. Erwin Keith  case. In this case, the Arkansas Court of Appeals dismissed a motion of appeal by a non-attorney representing an injured worker and held that the non-attorneys engaged in an unauthorized practice of law. Such a position was taken despite the fact that the Arkansas Code permitted an attorney to represent the employees before the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Commission. Courts in Arkansas and other states have found out that representation of a corporation in arbitration proceeding, between the employer and the employees, constitute an unauthorized practice of the law. As such, having a VPHRM who is a non-attorney is not only costly to the corporation, but also detrimental to arbitration cases. The holding in by Arkansas Court of Appeals demonstrate the importance of ensuring that those who represent corporations in the position of VPHRM; especially in cases to do with compensation benefits and arbitration, should have the legal expertise that can enable them to fully be agents of their employers (Marchington et al., 2016). Having HR management skills and at the same time being a practicing attorney with expertise in either labor law or employment law is an aspect that corporations should always consider.
In a majority of job descriptions for the VPHRM position, it is always required that the candidates should have a basic understanding of the law, especially the legal framework relating to labor relations and employment. However, what some employers do not realize is that their VPHRMs will not act as legal representatives as has been demonstrated in a variety of cases where the courts have dismissed cases because the HR managers have been deemed to engage in an unlawful practice of the law (Kaufman et al., 2016). Having a proper attorney who has the HR skills is akin to killing one bird using one stone. In specific, whereas the attorneys will be prolific in the manner in which they perform their HR functions, they will also be able to assist the organizations in court hearings as well as in the execution of documents that can only be executed by a practicing attorney. Fortune 500 companies have a lot of work that require the HR department to have people who understand not only the domestic law on labor and employment, but also have a knowledge of the international legal framework in relation to the same (Marchington et al., 2016). Although it is not explicitly stated that VPHRMs should be practicing attorneys, it is a necessity that corporations cannot afford to ignore. For them to be able to interpret the rights of the employees as enshrined in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as well as the requirements of equal pay under Equal Pay Act of 1963, correctly interpreting and applying these legislations effectively requires a practicing attorney with specialty in either labor law or employment law.
Strongest Arguments Against the Debate
Those opposed to the idea that viable candidates for the VP of HRM position in Fortune 500 corporations should be practicing attorneys with specialty in ether labor law or employment law argue that what is required in such a position is only a background of law and not expertise because a majority of the work entails human resource management. As such, they have argued that having a practicing attorney as the VPHRM would be ineffective because legal skills alone cannot lead to a person being an effective HR manager. Others have argued that even in some instances, such as in unemployment compensation proceedings, the modus operandi is different from judicial proceedings, and section 702 of the Unemployment Compensation Law requires representation by a counsel or any other duly authorized agent. In specific, it is their view that unemployment compensation proceedings are informal and nonbinding and thus do not rise to the level of judicial hearings where an attorney is required. As such, it is the position of those against the debate that attorneys are not necessary to guide the court in interpreting the law. As such, hearings are not judicial proceedings. It has been claimed that unemployment proceedings are typically heard by a person taking the position of a referee; who is not a lawyer, let alone a judge (Marchington et al., 2016). As a result, the argument is that allowing HR professionals to represent the corporations/employers aid in keeping the costs low for the employers as well as the affected employees. In fact, it has been argued that the unemployment compensation hearings are not only remedial, but also Informal and factual in nature, as opposed to legal.
Those opposed to the view that non-attorneys should not be candidates for the VP of HRM position argue that the representation of companies in unemployment hearings does not constitute the unauthorized practice of law. In specific, according to Kaufman et al. (2016), they argue that the determination of whether non-attorneys representing companies in unemployment hearings are unlawfully practicing law should be a practical aspect as opposed to a legal one. It is the view of those with opposing arguments that practical considerations as opposed to legal arguments to any commonly accepted definition of practicing law should be used. Additionally, they argue that some statutes as written may prohibit non-attorneys from representing businesses in hearing even if hiring lawyers at this point may be impractical. As such, opponents of the idea that VP of HRM should be a practicing attorney have viewed that requirement as impractical because of the great deal of work involved in hiring a lawyer.
Opposing arguments have been made to the effect that deploying practicing attorneys in the position of VP of HRM is so much costly to the companies, such that they can barely afford to pay. Comparisons have been made between the costs of hiring a practicing attorney compared to that of deploying a person with background in HR management. It has been found that even in some instances, the costs of hiring and remunerating a practicing attorney per year is two times or more that of another person who has done a different course (Marchington et al., 2016). Moreover, it has been argued that the VP or HRM position is not very attractive to practicing attorneys. The reasoning behind the claim is that practicing attorneys like to have their own time and space to do their work and they would not want to be controlled. As such, it is claimed that those who accept such a responsibility are not the best in the market. However, to rebut those claims, the costs involved in hiring and remunerating an attorney does not outweigh the benefits that arise in the end.
Examining the opposing arguments made by those against practicing attorneys, the focus is on the minor proceedings that do not require the services of a practicing attorney. For instance, the argument that the VPHRM position is more of a HR function as opposed to legal function is untrue. Although the VP will need to have HR management skills and capabilities, having a person with legal knowledge and an expert in labor or employment law is key to ensuring that the person is not limited to the extent in which he/she can represent his/her employer (Kaufman et al., 2016). For instance, having practicing attorney allows the VP of HRM to act as a legal representative, make arguments in judicial proceedings, and make better decisions in matters relating to compensation and benefits. A Fortune 500 company is better off bequeathing its HRM functions to an expert in labor or employment law because of the benefits that it will get such as better legal decisions being made. The argument that having HR professionals to be representatives in compensation hearings and other proceedings saves on costs does not hold any water in the long run. Although the costs may be saved in the short term, the corporation will incur more costs in hiring an external attorney to represent the company in court proceedings because a non-lawyer HR professional cannot do the same (Marchington et al., 2016). A VP in HRM with legal expertise can work well with a president with expertise in HR to ensure that the HR functions are effectively conducted.
In conclusion, I support the argument that any viable candidate for VP of HRM in a Fortune 500 corporation should be a practicing attorney with specialized knowledge in the areas of ether labor law or employment law. One of the grounds for my support is the fact that a practicing attorney operating the VPHRM functions will not be accused of unlawfully practicing the law and may execute legal instruments that may not be executed by a layperson. Additionally, a VP with a legal background supplements the HR manager in the sense that he/she can lawfully represent the corporation in judicial proceedings in addition to the other hearings such as compensation and arbitration negotiations. Moreover, it saves on the costs of deploying an external attorney with expertise in labor law or employment law in the event of legal suits by the employees. Opponents to the debate argue that it is costly to have a practicing attorney as a VP or HRM. However, such an argument is far-fetched because in the long run, monies and time is saved when the VP is a practicing attorney and can thus represent the company in judicial proceedings and other hearings where the services of a practicing attorney are required.
Bank of Fayetteville NA v. Dep’t of Workforce Services  Ark. App. 96.
Bouland v. Erwin Keith  Ark. App. 460.
Harkness v. Unemployment Compensation Board of Review  No. 150 C.D.
Kaufman, B. E., Beaumont, R. A., & Helfgott, R. B. (2016). A Century of Human Resource Management. In Industrial Relations to Human Resources and Beyond: The Evolving Process of Employee Relations Management (pp. 159-183). Routledge.
Marchington, M., Kynighou, A., Wilkinson, A., & Donnelly, R. (2016). Human resource management at work. Kogan Page Publishers.
Twomey, D. (2013). Labor and Employment Law: Text & Cases. Cengage Learning.