How to Handle Discrimination Complaints in the Workplace
Employers who receive complaints about workplace harassment or discrimination tend to panic. The litigation climate is volatile these days, and there are lawsuits being filed regularly alleging discrimination and harassment. Such litigation can be very expensive, not to mention bad PR for your business.
Many of these complaints can be handled very well right at the beginning, in order to reduce the risk of any long-term consequences for your business. What you need to cultivate as an employer is the mindset that negative actions are likely to occur in your workplace, no matter how much you try to control the environment. In other words, when you get a complaint by an employee alleging discrimination or harassment, don’t just assume that he or she is simply imagining the whole thing, and that such a thing could never happen in your workplace.
Investigate the complaint thoroughly. Every complaint deserves investigation. Don’t simply assume that whatever treatment the person received was purely a figment of his or her imagination.
It’s very important to treat the employee with compassion. When employees have a genuine workplace harassment or discrimination complaint, it can definitely affect their morale, their mental well-being, and even job performance. If you brush aside employee concerns, it only leads to resentment, which ultimately ends in litigation against the company.
Don’t retaliate against an employee for bringing any kind of complaints about discrimination or harassment to your attention.
Avoid taking negative decisions about employees including termination, promotions, pay cuts, and any other possibly negative actions against the employee, while the matter is unresolved.
An informed employer is a smart employer. Read up on the laws as related to discrimination or harassment under California law, and completely understand your obligations and responsibilities towards your employees.
During investigations, take down witness accounts, and write down all the proceedings of the investigation. Take interviews of any other parties at the office who may know about discrimination or harassment, and inquire whether other people in the office have suffered similar treatment. Once you’re able to confirm that the complainant has a valid compliant, take disciplinary action immediately.