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Responding to Employee Complaints in the Workplace: Best Practices for Business Owners, Employers, and Managers


Are you an employer who  received a complaint from an employee concerning employment discrimination or sexual harassment? The first question any employer has in this circumstance is what to do.

Have a System in Place to Receive Complaints 

What are best practices for employers, business owners, and managers who receive complaints from employees? First and most importantly, all employers should already have a clear system in place for receiving complaints. Employers should have a method for employees to report their complaints, which can be over the phone, in person, or electronically through an email or a text message. In some cases, employers even have systems for complaint reporting set up through social media sites. The key is for the employer to have a system in which the employee feels comfortable reporting incidents of discrimination or harassment without fearing retaliation.

Have a Workplace Policy for Handling and Resolving Complaints 

It is important for employers to have a clear policy concerning employee complaints, which outlines how employees can and should report incidents of discrimination, for example (as we mentioned above), but also how the employer will handle and resolve those complaints. Ideally, this policy should be printed in an employee handbook, and as part of the terms of employment, and employee should read the policy and acknowledge that she or he understands it.

Typically, workplace policies involve specific information about when and how an employee complaint will be investigated, and how the employer will handle possible outcomes and resolutions. It is important for employers to make clear that they take employee complaints seriously. 

Take Steps to Ensure an Impartial Investigation 

One of the most important practices for employers throughout the country is to ensure that there is an impartial investigation when an employee alleges discrimination or harassment in the workplace. To ensure that investigations are impartial and fair to both parties, employers often hire neutral third-party investigators to conduct investigations.

The employer should ensure that the investigator takes a statement from the complainant (the employee who filed the complaint), which should make clear when and where the incident(s) occurred, who was involved (such as name(s) of other employees who are alleged to have perpetrated the discrimination or harassment, as well as name(s) of anyone who may have been a witness), and specific details about the incident. The statement should be written, and it should be signed by the complaining employee. Once the investigator has taken the complaining employee’s statement, the investigation into the allegations should be prompt and thorough. Subsequent elements of the investigation include interviewing the individuals who allegedly discriminated against or harassed the employee, as well as interviewing any potential witnesses.

Determining an Appropriate Response to the Investigation Outcome 

The investigator often does not make the final decision. Instead, the employer often is tasked with making a decision about the appropriate outcome, whether it means termination or another resolution. If you have concerns, you should discuss them with a third party workplace investigation firm. Contact Scott Wagner and Associates today for more information.

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Florida 561-653-0008 California 213-377-5200
* Cathleen Scott is licensed to practice in Florida only.

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