Thoughts about hr and management in the real world – extra information I couldn't fit in my books!.

Update on being sued by HRINZ

Some of you will know that at the HR Game Changer Conference in September it was announced that several senior HR people were starting a chartered institute. Soon after HRINZ issued myself and my colleagues Fraser and Lisa with a fairly threatening cease-and-desist letter.

For the record, none of us were contacted (either by phone or email) before HRINZ took legal action. What I find most disappointing about this is that I know most of the Board personally (Rachel Walker, Huma Faruqui, Julia Stones, Denise Hartley-Wilkins and Rowan Tonkin) yet they decided legal action was the very first step to take.

Chris Til said on LinkedIn that he had talked to people about it. He hadn’t. The email and conversation he was referring to was back in May with myself, when HRINZ banned us from advertising the HR Game Changer Conference in the HR magazine. It was nothing to do with a new institute being formed.

I have asked the National Board for an apology for this misrepresentation. They have said they stand by Chris’s actions.

After we got the letter, we didn’t agree with the points raised (if you want to have a read just click here) – but for us, it wasn’t about the name.

Everyone understands that a Chartered Accountant has qualifications, skills and experience in accounting and keeps their knowledge up to date. Many CEO’s and managers don’t seem to think any skills or experience are required to work in HR, or if they do, they’re not sure what those are. If HR became a chartered profession – then it would be a big step to solving this issue. At the HRGC in the UK, what HR does wasn’t even discussed. They’ve had chartered status for many years.

So the name of the new entity was changed.

However HRINZ decided that even though we had ceased and desisted, they would still take us to the High Court first for an injunction, and then to argue we’d breached the Flags, Emblems and Names Protection Act and the Fair Trading Act.

Our High Court hearing about the injunction is scheduled for February. Our Barrister estimates the full case may be heard by the end of the year.

And the case is not just against Elephant, but also against myself, Fraser and Lisa personally.

By February it will have cost us around $20,000 in legal fees. And by the end will be much, much more.

I never imagined that the Institute that I was a member of for 10+ years, that I volunteered hundreds of hours of my time free of charge to, that I wrote free articles and blogs for, that I promoted in seminars, conferences and events – that they would decide rather than talking to me, they would sue me for tens of thousands of dollars and counting. Using HRINZ members money to do it.

I want to thank everyone who has contacted me and told me that they agree we need to be chartered, that HRINZ’s behaviour is appalling and that they are or have resigned – and that they are sorry that this is happening. A few people have asked me why I don’t drop the case. I can’t. I’m not the one pursuing it. HRINZ are.

I found HRINZ’s approach right from the start threatening and toxic. While I put a brave face on it, it has been incredibly upsetting to find that you can be treated like this. Especially when I’m not even one of the founders of the new entity. It has felt like bullying. It’s also amazing to me that in NZ anyone can sue you for something and you have to pay huge amounts to defend yourself. Even if we win the case and prove there was no case for HRINZ to take – we don’t get our money back.

On that note, if you would like to support us stand against this behaviour from HRINZ and help us financially, I have started a ‘Give A Little’ campaign for myself, Fraser and also for Lisa who as many of you know, also supported HRINZ for many years. Any contribution would be much appreciated:

And I’ll keep you all updated on the injunction hearing next month.

13 comments on “Update on being sued by HRINZ

  1. Helen Amery
    January 15, 2015

    The defensive ‘fight’ response of an organisation under threat. What a terribly sad situation, and from a part of the world of work who you would expect to be more emotionally intelligent. I wish you all strength and resilience. And in the future I’m sure you will look back and see this as a defining turning point from which you learn more than ever before in your life.

    • angelaatkins
      January 15, 2015

      Thank you Helen. I woke up this morning to emails of support from around the world and people donating to help us. While some situations show us the worse side of human nature – when the good side comes out it is truly awesome! It has been a learning experience and I think will be a turning point. It just hasn’t felt that way during the lowest moments…

  2. Aaron McIntosh
    January 15, 2015

    Angela you know we admire the work and efforts you (and others) have done over the years and continue to do. I know you will have mine and many others support to keep moving forward. I also have a little ditty my parents were inclined to sing when things got tough – “I’ll take the high road and you’ll take the low road and I’ll get to Scotland before ye”.

    • angelaatkins
      January 15, 2015

      Thank you Aaron. I think a youtube video of you singing that little ditty would be fantastic to see and keep me motivated …. 😉

  3. Pingback: HRINZ sue to stop competition - LATEST NEWS

  4. dcullen57
    January 15, 2015

    Really sorry to hear about this Angela, incredible the lengths they are going to for such little ‘gain’ there appears to be in the situation. My best for the hearing in February.

  5. Liz Tibbutt
    January 15, 2015

    Madness. I wasn’t aware you could sue to KEEP a monopoly. While it must be incredibly stressful and feel like a huge uphill battle, you are doing the right thing. How can I help? Is it time to contact some business journalists? I might know a couple 😉

  6. Pingback: The curse of the early adopter | People Stuff

  7. Meredith Blackler
    January 19, 2015

    A couple of quotes for you Angela, as one of my favourite people in HR and someone I admire immensely:

    “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.” – Theodore Roosevelt

    “If the road is easy, you’re likely going the wrong way.” – Terry Goodkind

    And one amusing one:

    “To live is to war with trolls.” – Henrik Ibsen

    Easier to say than do I know, try to only let this change you for the better, because in adversity we find a strength we didn’t know we had and we are usually better off for it. It’ll be a hard year, but you have a lot of people supporting you & who believe in you (isn’t that the definition of success already?)

  8. Vaughan Rivett
    March 30, 2015

    Any updates Angela?

    • angelaatkins
      March 31, 2015

      Hi Vaughan,

      At the injunction hearing HRINZ decided not to take an injunction but accept the undertaking we’d made in October to change the name.

      Currently the next High Court appearance is May to discuss costs and then if HRINZ still decide to go ahead with the full case, that will be later in the year. If you read the settlement offer they made us (which they have sent out to all members) you’ll see why we haven’t accepted it.

      So basically it continues on……

  9. Jonathan Sweeney
    June 7, 2015

    Angela, each circumstance (irrespective of similarity) is unique and I want to Thank you for sharing this and the strength and courage you show by walking away. Recently I found myself in a situation of being being bullied and used as a scapegoat (ironically endorsed and sponsored by HR) in a major organisation – as much as I wanted to fight it was better, for lots of aspects, to ‘turn the other cheek’ and walk away. Ironically I read a an article by Branson last week which talked about knowing when to say No rather than Yes – similar rhetoric.

    I wish you every success in an environment where people are willing to ‘get it’!

  10. Pingback: Lessons from being sued | hrmanagementbites

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