Human Resources Associate // Asociadx de Recursos Humanos

Highlander Research and Education Center

[Note: Actual title to be consistent with Highlander’s current titling structure is “People and Culture Specialist”] // [Nota: El título real para ser consistente con la estructura de cargos actual de Highlander es “Especialistx de Personas y Cultura”]

The Highlander Mission // La Misión de Highlander 

Highlander serves as a catalyst for grassroots organizing and movement building in Appalachia and the South. We work with people fighting for justice, equality and sustainability, supporting their efforts to take collective action to shape their own destiny. Through popular education, participatory research, and cultural work, we help create spaces — at our center and in local communities — where people gain knowledge, hope and courage, expanding their ideas of what is possible. We develop leadership and help create and support strong, democratic organizations that work for justice, equality, and sustainability in their own communities and that join with others to build broad movements for social, economic, and restorative environmental change. //

Highlander sirve como catalizador para las organizaciones de base y como desarrollador de movimientos en Appalachia y el sur. Trabajamos con personas que luchan por la justicia, la igualdad y la sostenibilidad, apoyando sus esfuerzos para emprender acciones colectivas y dar forma a su propio destino. A través de la educación popular, la investigación participativa y el trabajo cultural ayudamos a crear espacios — en nuestro centro y en las comunidades locales — donde las personas adquieren conocimiento, esperanza y coraje, ampliando sus ideas de lo que es posible. Desarrollamos liderazgo, ayudamos a crear y apoyar organizaciones fuertemente democráticas que trabajan por la justicia, la igualdad y la sostenibilidad de sus propias comunidades y que se unen a otras para construir amplios movimientos para el cambio ambiental, social, económico y reparador.  

Overview // Visión General 

Since 1932, Highlander has centered the experiences of directly-impacted people in our region, knowing that together, we have the solutions to address the challenges we face in our communities and to build more just, equitable, and sustainable systems and structures. Highlander has experienced recent growth in size and complexity, necessitating a deeper and more strategic HR approach to foster a thriving team and join a legacy of environmental, economic, and racial justice movement-building in the South and Appalachia.

The Human Resources Associate (“People and Culture Specialist”) is a newly created position that will work with leadership and unionized Highlander staff to support human resources functions with a keen eye for detail and a people-centered and pro-worker democracy approach. This includes administering benefits, supporting hiring processes, tracking safety and compliance, and coordinating necessary assessments, training, leadership development, and learning across the team in a way that centers Highlander’s values and ensures a commitment to worker justice. 

This role functions in a highly collaborative team of approximately 50 Highlander staff, would interact with close to 150 total employees of the organization (Highlander staff plus fiscal sponsorees), and would support the work of Highlander’s Personnel & Human Resources Board-level committee. This position will report to the People and Culture Coordinator and is remote-optional, with a preference for candidates who can commute regularly or occasionally (within a three-hour drive) to Highlander. Please note: Highlander currently requires staff who are on-site to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

In order to be consistent with Highlander’s titling structure, the actual title for this role will be “People and Culture Specialist.” The role is envisioned to approximate an HR Associate position, although it will have a “Specialist” title. //

Desde 1932, Highlander se ha centrado en las experiencias de las personas directamente afectadas en nuestra región, sabiendo que juntos, tenemos las soluciones para abordar los desafíos que enfrentamos en nuestras comunidades y para construir sistemas y estructuras más justas, equitativas y sostenibles. Highlander ha experimentado un reciente crecimiento en tamaño y complejidad, lo que hace necesario un enfoque de recursos humanos más profundo y estratégico para fomentar un equipo próspero y unirse a un legado de construcción de movimientos de justicia ambiental, económica y racial en el Sur y los Apalaches.

El Asociado de Recursos Humanos (“Especialista en Personas y Cultura”) es un puesto de nueva creación que trabajará con la dirección y el personal sindicalizado de Highlander para apoyar las funciones de recursos humanos con un ojo agudo para el detalle y un enfoque centrado en las personas y en la democracia de los trabajadores. Esto incluye la administración de los beneficios, el apoyo a los procesos de contratación, el seguimiento de la seguridad y el cumplimiento, y la coordinación de las evaluaciones necesarias, la formación, el desarrollo del liderazgo y el aprendizaje en todo el equipo de una manera que centra los valores de Highlander y asegura un compromiso con la justicia de los trabajadores.

Este papel funciona en un equipo altamente colaborativo de aproximadamente 40 empleadxs de Highlander, interactuaría con cerca de 150 empleadxs totales de la organización (personal de Highlander más patrocinadores fiscales), y apoyaría el trabajo del comité de la Mesa de Personal y Recursos Humanos de Highlander. Este puesto dependerá del Coordinador de Personas y Cultura y es opcional a distancia, con preferencia por lxs candidatxs que puedan desplazarse de forma regular u ocasional (a menos de tres horas en coche) a Highlander. Tenga en cuenta: Highlander exige actualmente que el personal que se encuentre en el lugar de trabajo esté vacunado contra el COVID-19.

Para ser coherente con la estructura de titulación de Highlander, el título real de esta función será “Especialista en Personas y Cultura.” Se prevé que la función se aproxime a un puesto de Asociado de Recursos Humanos, aunque tendrá un título de “Especialista.”

Key Responsibilities

Benefits Administration

  • Using Highlander’s automated systems to streamline benefits administration, prepare and process required benefits documents (health, vision, dental, retirement, COBRA, HSAs, life insurance, and disability insurance) for active, new, and transitioning employees 
  • Work with Finance staff to support benefits administration and leave tracking as needed for payroll and budgeting
  • Coordinate with staff who take parental or sabbatical leave or short term/long term disability leave; process any state or organizational forms
  • Serve as the internal point person for questions about organizational benefits
  • Work closely with insurance brokers and vendors and manage annual renewals
  • Track staff development funds and other funds/stipends as benefits expand


People-Centered Processes

  • Maintain personnel files and consider ways to enhance and improve staff access to records and policies, such as through an HRIS, and recording new hires, terminations, changes in positions, and salary increases
  • Provide key hiring support to cross-team hiring committees, including coordinating orientation on-boarding and off-boarding, posting jobs and helping to build diverse and innovative outreach strategies, and maintain interview guides and other templates
  • Create and manage required documentation (such as I9s, state employment registrations, background checks, etc.) for new and terminated employees with intention, care, and a worker-justice approach
  • Identify ways to thoughtfully track applicant, team, and organizational demographics as needed in a way that ensures staff’s social identities are acknowledged and honored
  • Support accommodation requests as needed and develop consistent accommodation practices
  • Support the People and Culture Coordinator with implementing and improving organizational assessments, trainings, performance evaluations, and other employee engagement and leadership development efforts
  • Serve as the technical and logistics point person for all HR systems; explore and recommend systems improvements
  • Work with the Personnel Committee to share updates and support implementation of new processes, when necessary


Policies, Safety, & Compliance

  • Work with the People and Culture Coordinator and Personnel Committee to support the maintenance, development, and evaluation of all human resources practices and policies
  • Maintain awareness and knowledge of labor laws and ensure staff are fully informed and equipped for safe practices
  • Work with the Building and Grounds team and Office Manager to ensure workplace safety is practiced and prioritized at all times (e.g., appropriate signage is posted, workplace safety inspections are held and documented, etc.), a workers’ compensation audit is conducted annually, and staff are resourced with any necessary filing or related support                                                


Required Skills, Experiences, and Understandings

  • Commitment to working in a multi-racial, cross-class, multi-gendered workplace that centers the leadership of people most directly impacted by systems of oppression; eagerness to engage in HR practices with a pro-worker approach
  • At least 2 years of dedicated benefits enrollment and administration experience with an organization with 30-50+ employees; 3 or more years of previous nonprofit experience and familiarity with multistate employers preferred
  • Good judgment to manage sensitive and confidential matters; high degree of personal integrity
  • Ability to adapt as needed, self-manage, and prioritize between and manage multiple demands and workstreams
  • Expert administrative skills – excels at and enjoys tracking data, willingness to push through bureaucracy to advocate for staff documents, resources, and support 
  • Strong preference for a bilingual Spanish to English speaker and writer; must be committed to supporting bi- or multilingual spaces and language justice practices


Desired Skills/Experiences

  • Experience with collective bargaining and working with unions
  • Familiarity with health/safety inspection (such as in a kitchen or farm)
  • Experience working with fiscally sponsored projects
  • Familiarity with conflict resolution and mediation processes
  • Familiarity with highly participatory models of organizational development, governance, and budgeting
  • Be located within a half day’s commute (e.g., within a 3 hour drive) from Highlander, although this position can be performed remotely


Compensation and Employee Benefits

This position’s salary is set at $64,816 (before taxes and other withholdings), which is Highlander’s annual Level 2 salary.

Because our team is how we live out our mission, Highlander has a longstanding practice of prioritizing excellent benefits. Our exceptional benefits package includes 100% coverage of eligible health, vision, and dental insurance expenses for employees, partners, and their dependents. We also offer a Health Reimbursement Account (HRA) to cover eligible out-of-pocket expenses; an employer-paid annual retirement contribution after a year of employment; a nominal life insurance plan; paid parental leave; and paid sick, vacation (up to 24 days accrued annually), and holiday leave. Other benefits currently include a $1,000 annual staff development stipend and 20 days of paid sabbatical leave after five years of employment.

This position is currently a full-time, salaried position, with occasional evening and weekend work required. Due to the nature of this work, this position is an exempt position, which means it does not qualify for overtime pay. This position is excluded from the union.


Highlander is located on 186 acres of land in rural East Tennessee (near Knoxville) and is considered a “movement home” by thousands of people from all over the world. Based on the nature of the position, we encourage applications from people who can commute to Highlander, work occasional evenings and weekends, and respond to emergencies as they arise. We offer up to $1,500.00 in relocation reimbursements and, if available, temporary transitional housing at Highlander. 

We strongly encourage applicants from the area. Applicants who live in other areas and are open to working remotely, with occasional travel for staff retreats and other position-related requirements, will also be considered.

How to Apply

Highlander is working with Megan Rolfe (Blue Swallow Consulting) through RoadMap Consulting to support this search. Please send a resume and a tailored cover letter explaining your interest in the position to with “Highlander HR Associate” in the subject line. 

Optional: In addition to the required information above, candidates are welcome to send other application content that showcases your skills, interests, and experiences. The content can come in any form of media, such as a timeline of your work, life, or experiences; a video, a slidedeck or presentation, a visual art piece, a song, poem, or other writing samples.

The application process will be open until position is filled and applications will be considered on a rolling basis. We hope to fill this position as soon as possible. Select applicants will receive an initial invitation to interview with a hiring committee, and the final candidate(s) will be invited to a final interview with the full Highlander staff. During the pandemic, all interviews will take place via Zoom.

Highlander is an equal opportunity employer, and we especially encourage applications from Black, Brown, and Indigenous people, women, LGBTQ+ and gender variant/non-conforming folks, and working-class/cash poor people. Folks directly impacted by the criminal justice system are also encouraged to apply.