Workplace complaints regarding discrimination generally originate with employees — or through exit interviews, or by letter from an attorney.
As a manager, you are often the first point of contact when an employee wishes to make a complaint. Because the efficient and effective handling of a complaint is an important responsibility, it is critical to understand and follow a careful process.
Recording the Complaint
When you are approached by an employee who wishes to make a complaint, schedule a time as soon as possible to meet in a quiet, private setting.
If a formal complaint form exists within the organization, use it to note all the details. If not, take careful handwritten notes. Listen attentively to the employee’s responses based on the questions you ask during the interview. At a minimum, ask for and document the following information:
Date and time of the complaint
Name of employee filing the complaint
Home and work telephone numbers and e-mail address
Employee’ s position and supervisor
Name of accused employee
Accused employee’s position
The incident(s) of the complaint
Make sure to be objective, fair, and consistent, and respond clearly and consistently to any questions the complainant asks. Thank the individual for his or her willingness to file a complaint, and assure the employee that you will maintain confidentiality. Advise the individual of the next steps in the process.
Identifying Appropriate Actions
In many companies, there is a designated diversity officer or member of the Human Resources department who is responsible for taking and investigating diversity complaints. If you work at a small company without a designated individual or a human resources department, go to your direct superior and ask with whom you should file your report.
Provide your notes and records to this person.
At no time discuss the complaint with anyone else, as the person who made the complaint was promised confidentiality.
Under no circumstances should you ever ignore a complaint.
Choosing a Path
In discrimination cases, it is likely that an investigation will occur. Your action path must include a high degree of professionalism and cooperation. Below are several suggestions.
Participate fully in an investigation
Continue to monitor the situation in your workgroup
Report any new complaint information you receive to the diversity officer or human resources representative
Arrange for a short paid leave for the employee, if warranted
If the issue is a violation and your employee is being accused, you may need to temporarily reassign him or her. Obtain pertinent advice from your human resources department
Assume business as usual. Remain calm and cordial, and business-like in your interactions with all of your team members and colleagues
Continue to maintain an open door environment
Be consistent; continue enforcing policies and rules consistently and fairly.
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