Can HR Fire Me?

Laurie Ruettimann is a workforce expert and podcaster. Please check out the homepage for her most recent podcasts, LinkedIn courses, and newsletters.


Can HR Fire me?

Of course they can.

People get fired for all sorts of reasons everyday, and most people in America don’t have any recourse when it happens.

But human resources rarely leads the way in firing someone.

The decision to terminate an employee nearly always comes from their manager or supervisor. HR’s role is to coordinate the process, explain your rights and benefits when leaving an organization, and make sure your employer follows the law and its own policies.

The HR department does make for a convenient scapegoat, though, and plenty of conflict-averse managers have blamed HR over the years to avoid taking responsibility for their decisions. Here’s what you need to know about HR’s role in the firing process.

Can HR Force My Manager or Supervisor to Fire Me?

Some people run afoul of the HR department. Still, your local HR representative cannot force your manager to fire you. If you are fired because HR doesn’t like you, it most likely means that your manager didn’t like you.

Often, HR is a scapegoat.

But let’s circle back for a moment. One of the most basic examples is new managers or supervisors. Your boss can fire you because they don’t like you, even though liking your boss is not part of a job requirement. They want you to do things their way, and you don’t have much choice. A good rule to follow is to keep criticism about a new boss outside of the office and away from ears that are for sure listening.

Which brings me to my next point: If a boss doesn’t like you, they will use everything against you to get you fired. It is hard for a manager in a larger company to demand your firing because they simply don’t like you. However, they will find ammunition wherever they feel they must.

What Can HR Fire You For?

I can’t stress this enough: HR professionals rarely make a decision to fire anybody. In most organizations, the decision to fire an employee is made by a supervisor or manager. The local HR department clears the determination with the legal department or outside counsel and simply processes the paperwork. When the decision to fire someone has been made, HR can offer limited support and explain the following steps to the affected employee.

Should HR support workers? Of course, they should, but sometimes that’s not enough to protect you from being fired. In theory, HR serves as a neutral third party. But it is also HR’s job to explain policy and what led to your termination. The line is fine, which is why I continue to say that HR doesn’t fire you. They are simply the messenger.

You do have the power to avoid many situations that can lead to termination. I will cover the most common offenses that can help build a case for your firing.

Sexual harassment is never, ever OK. Unwelcome and unwanted advances anywhere are wrong, much less at work. I should not have to tell you how to avoid sexually harassing another person. If you are the victim of sexual harassment, contact your HR department today.

Excessive absences raise all sorts of red flags. You don’t want to hand someone else the power to decide if you like your job well enough to do it. Stay on top of attendance policies, and make sure you document everything.

Theft and misuse of company property and resources are a no-no. Even when it comes to using a company phone or computer, always follow company policies.

And don’t drink or do drugs at work. Yes, the days are long and hard, but just don’t.

You can get fired for a million other reasons, but these are the most common and avoidable. When HR hands you a handbook of policies, you need to read it.

The Role of HR in Terminating Employees

HR isn’t what some people believe it is. I’ve covered a bit about what is and isn’t HR’s responsibility. HR has a role in the termination process. The most significant part they play is that they are the checks and balances. It is up to HR to ensure that policy and procedure are followed and that everything is legally done.

The best HR departments work to maintain employee’s dignity throughout the firing process. The role of HR is not easy, and they are there to make a horrible event less horrible. HR is there to answer any questions and concerns. Even after the face-to-face part, HR updates employee files and is available to explain anything you might forget during such a stressful time.

HR advocates for employees on a variety of issues, such as work safety. What that all means is that HR is not primarily a firing mechanism. It includes fighting against discrimination and other abuses in the workplace. HR is a layer of protection, not the enemy.


  1. You wrote, “Contact an employment lawyer…” to workers who seek counsel re. whistle blowing. Yea I sought such an attorney under the heading “employment law” all results were for lawyers who represent employers/management/businesses. Not ’til I searched the term “labor lawyer” did I finally find attorney whose main business is representing *employees*. Far fewer labor lawyers because “employment” (actually management) attorneys make the big bucks.

  2. Well said! I wish there was a way I could make this required reading for all employees during new hire orientation, especially those who had a cowardly manager in a past job who let HR take the blame for any unpleasant interactions, including making them do their job!

    My favorite question to ask those employees who express concern when I’m in the room is “how many people do you think I’ve fired?” They usually say “too many to count” and I always respond, “nope… zero!”

    • Should be that way, but some companies “require approval from a division attorney” submitted by HR to do this. It’s wrong, but HR should not be picking winners and losers. Management should be firing people, not HR. HR is about compliance not screwing the supervisor.!!!

  3. My job wamts to get rid of me after a non related off job imjury and gave me to end of day .i called my doctor and now they gave me until Monday
    It just seems odd to hpw they could say one thing and do another. Note i have almost 20 years but this os the 3rd mgmt
    To run the apts

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