An organization must take specific actions once a complaint has been filed. All complaints must be taken seriously and dealt with in a professional manner. As a company you should be prepared with documentation, policies, and procedure to follow if a complaint is ever made. We will look at the processes involved if ever a complaint is put forth.
If your organization has a formal complaint form and the complaint consists of notes, transcribe them to the complaint form to make sure the information is complete.
Weighing the need for an Investigation
Based on the severity of the complaint, whether there is disagreement about the incident, and how any similar complaints were handled in the past, decide whether an investigation is warranted. If the issue is simple and straightforward, or easily resolvable, a full investigation may not be warranted. But if the charge is serious — or you sense there are other factors below the surface at play, an investigation is in order. You can identify one or more company employees to conduct the investigation, use a licensed investigation professional, or retain an attorney to conduct the investigation.
A company investigator should have some prior experience along with the ability to remain impartial and discreet. He or she should have higher ranking, if possible, than the complainant. Certain situations merit the use of an outside investigator. They include:
Conduct an Investigation
You will want find out who complained, why, who is being accused of discrimination, whether any witnesses have been named, and what potential employment decision is being questioned. Follow the process below.
If you find that discrimination occurred, take corrective action. You want to a) end the discrimination and b) remedy the victim’s situation(s). Carefully evaluate the circumstances and consider corrective actions. The punitive actions should correspond to the level or severity of the infraction(s). And even if a solid conclusion cannot be made, preventive actions can be taken.
Either way, options include:
Document the Investigation
Keep all notes and documentation of the findings. Write a short formal report explaining the decision along with the reasons. Keep a copy in the company’s confidential files; it should never go into an employee’s personnel file.
Contact the complainant on occasion to make sure that problem has stopped, that there has been no retaliation, and that the employee feels safe and comfortable. At your discretion, you may also wish to contact the accused employee as well to make sure things have returned to normal.
Regardless of the outcome of the complaint, if you found ethnic, racial, gender or disability practices, now is the time to make things better. Below are some actions your organization should consider taking.
Johanna felt like her stomach was in knots, after making a complaint about a co-worker. She had thought about trying to resolve the situation herself, but she was too worried about retaliation from her co-worker.
Her manager, Carlos, followed all policies and procedures of the company by the book. He noticed that she was frowning and seemed distracted. “Johanna, you still look worried. Is there anything else you want to say?”
Johanna said, “Do you think there will be a full investigation? Will this be handled quickly? Or will it take a long time?”
Carlos said, “These matters can take time to resolve. However, sometimes complaints don’t need a full investigation, if they can be easily resolved. I’ll take this matter to human resources, and we’ll go from there.”
Johanna felt better, knowing that her complaint was being taken seriously and that her manager had been honest with her.