10 Of The Biggest HR Mistakes Over The Last Few Years
HR mistakes

10 Of The Biggest HR Mistakes Over The Last Few Years

In this list, we’ll be going through some of the biggest HR mistakes that have been made over the past few years and how they could have been prevented. When a large company makes a mistake, it’s often hard to cover up as they are under the microscope. Even the smallest issue can be blown out of proportion and spread around. But these mistakes deserve to be talked about.

Alton Towers ‘Smiler’ Ride Crash Due To “Human Error”

Alton Towers suffered a major ride failure in June 2015, resulting in 5 people being seriously injured. Staff misunderstood a shutdown message on the Smiler ride and wrongly restarted the ride. Overriding the control system, the staff failed to follow appropriate safety protocols, leading to two women having legs amputated after the ride hit an empty carriage. The victims were trapped on the ride for several hours, mid ride cycle.

A total of 16 people were injured in the incident and it had wide coverage across the news, resulting in the theme park’s closure for 5 days. Merlin Attraction Operations Ltd, the operator for Alton Towers was fined £5m for the crash on the Smiler ride.

Cambridgeshire Zookeeper Killed By Tiger

Zookeeper Rosa King was unfortunately killed on 29th May 2017 in Hammerton Zoo Park in what was described as a “freak accident”.

The tiger had somehow entered the enclosure where she was working. This comes after a zoo in Cumbria had previously been fined £255,000 after a tiger killed a zookeeper.

Urban Outfitters Asked Employees To “Volunteer” During The Holidays

URBN (parent company of Urban Outfitters) sent out an email in 2015 asking employees to “volunteer” their spare time at the weekend to work and prepare for the busy holiday season. The company did not acknowledge the employees’ time and effort, only offering them a free lunch and transport in exchange for 6-hour shifts. They had described unpaid, extra work as a “team building activity.”

Wal-Mart Fires Employee For Redeeming $5 in Recyclables

US supermarket chain Wal-Mart, a company that has had their fair share of HR nightmares, fired an employee in 2015 for trading in abandoned recyclables for cash.

The employee had found used recyclable cans and bottles outside the store whilst gathering shopping carts in the parking lot and decided to redeem them. He redeemed them twice, the first using cans he had found in the parking lot and this isn’t what Wal-Mart took issue over. The second time he traded the recyclables, they were found in a cart just inside the store entrance.

Wal-Mart then fired him believing it was theft and made him sign a statement, despite him not having his glasses and not being able to read it properly. The worst part is that they refused him a copy of the statement and on the day he was fired, he had already been working over 3-4 hours past the end of his shift.

Twitter Sent Out Rejection Email Listing The Other Rejects As Well

After people had applied for the role of “Business Product Manager” with social media platform Twitter, the unsuccessful applicants received a standard rejection letter. The issue however, is that the HR Manager for Twitter had accidently mixed up BCC and CC and included all 186 unsuccessful applicants in the CC section, meaning everyone was aware of who else applied.

This led to it being shared over the Internet and forced the CEO of Twitter, Evan Williams to make a statement, apologising for the mistake and asking for people to respect each other’s privacy.

Fortnum & Mason Ask Their Employees To Take A Pay Cut

In December 2016, Fortnum & Mason faced a backlash when their London Heathrow bar asked its employees to accept a reduction in pay.

The Terminal 5 bar automatically adds a 12.5% service charge to all customers’ bills, but the employees never see any of this money. Fortnum & Mason wanted to change this, but only if the staff would take a decrease in pay first.

This resulted in protests outside Fortnum & Mason’s flagship store in London.

Yahoo! Introduce Employee Ranking System And Fire The Low Scorers

Yahoo, with their many problems, thought it would be a good idea to introduce an employee ranking system.

This forced managers to rank their employees and fire the ones who ranked the lowest. Not only was this unfair and cruel, it created a really bad morale and negatively gives the incentive for employees to please managers and fear for their jobs.

Tesco Pays Out Nearly ‘£10m’ To Staff After Payroll Errors

In March 2017, supermarket giants Tesco reimbursed 140,000 current and former employees a total of £9.7m after payroll errors meant they had been paid below the national minimum wage. This error occurred during the implementation of a new payroll system. A review of the system found mistakes when it came to voluntary schemes like pensions, cycle to work programmes and childcare vouchers.

After these had been taken into account, their pay after this didn’t reach the national minimum wage, therefore Tesco had to pay out almost £10m to fix the situation.

Abercrombie & Fitch Look Policy: No Muslims or Fat People

American based upscale clothing company Abercrombie & Fitch’s CEO Mike Jefferies said in a 2006 interview that only “cool” people should shop at their store. “Cool” meaning he didn’t want any unattractive or fat customers.

The company already has a high appearance standard when it comes to their workers, having topless males modelling their clothing in store. So it’s no surprise that the HR department thought it was appropriate to fire and not hire Muslim women because their religious beliefs required them to wear a hijab or head scarf, stating this was not part of their policy. Company policy does not outrank discrimination law. The company have since then changed the policy in 2013, only after multiple lawsuits.

Hooters Forced Bald Waitress To Quit

Popular US food chain Hooters tried to make waitress Sandra Lupo wear a wig after having a brain tumour removed.

Lupo had claimed that the restaurant had agreed to her wearing a hat to cover up her scars prior to the surgery, but when she returned to work they insisted that she wore a wig. The restaurant prides itself on not only selling food, but selling “sexuality” as well. As a result of this, they kept cutting her hours back until she was forced to quit.

She then tried to sue them for disability discrimination. Hooters did not act illegally in this situation, but it was very insensitive and the situation should have been dealt with a lot better.


These mistakes could have easily been avoided if handled correctly and most of them would have benefited from having good HR support behind them.

Wurkplace Limited provides multiple HR and Payroll options, ensuring the latest regulations and policies are being met and providing support to all employees. We can help prevent you committing any HR mistakes, which could lead to very damaging consequences as we have seen.

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