Could HR solve...? Selling Sunset

A high-end estate agent is threatened with dismissal while on maternity leave

Netflix; Pat Bannon Photo

The problem

Queen bee of LA real estate Christine Quinn leaves boutique agency Oppenheim Group to go on maternity leave, safe in the knowledge that she has a job to return to. But in her absence, her colleagues gossip about the controversial agent, whose toxic behaviour often causes drama. Meanwhile, the business’s owners recruit Emma Hernan, Quinn’s long-term rival, who soon rallies the entire office into a campaign to have Quinn fired. How could HR have stepped in to defuse the situation?

The solution

“If only management had dealt with the toxic behaviour when it first arose,” says Amanda Arrowsmith, HR director at ADEY Innovation.

There’s nothing to stop employees raising issues about colleagues on maternity leave, she explains, but it’s essential they aren’t related to their maternity leave. However, when a group of employees is complaining, senior leaders and HR must work together to deal in facts.

“As the colleagues have not raised it with senior leaders collectively, HR needs to consider this as a grievance,” she says. “This should always start with mediation. If it can’t be resolved they will need to put their complaint in writing. The grievance will be dealt with in one meeting and result in one outcome, so HR needs to ensure no one feels bullied.”

“After the investigation, if there’s a disciplinary case, the employer can take action,” says Arrowsmith. “An employee on maternity leave can still be dismissed.”

However, she adds, this case shows the importance of dealing with disruptive behaviour when it occurs – leaders need to step in long before a situation becomes toxic, and HR should always support and encourage this.