How Should HR Deal with Discrimination and Harassment Complaints?

March 30, 20172:32 pm
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In today’s globalised world, employers are encouraged to promote diversity in the workplace. While this might sound like a great idea to cultivate cultural awareness among employees, diversity in the workplace does come with share of cons as well. Discrimination and harassment are some of the common issues faced by employees in a culturally-diverse workplace.

Almost every HR leader will find it uneasy when employees are dissatisfied with the workplace culture and have to lodge discrimination or harassment complaints. With employees exercising their right to report such issues to the HR manager, how should HRs deal with such complaints?

Upon receiving complaint of discrimination or harassment at work, employers should take immediate and concrete action to address the complaints right away. Such complaints do not only affect the victim, but also the entire team. Prolonged procrastination of this unresolved issue can result in workplace tension that will hamper employees’ productivity, and thus affect your bottom line in the long run.

Things could get worse when employers are unable to conduct appropriate investigation, as this might aggravate the problem further and result in a costly battle: perhaps a lawsuit.

See: How to Create an Anti-Harassment Company Policy That Works

Here are several useful tips to successfully handle discrimination and harassment complaints:

  1. Treat the victim with respect

Take time to listen to the complainer and understand the happenings at work. It takes a great deal of courage for someone to file a complaint, especially when it comes to sexual harassment.

Sometimes, even the accuser has to suffer from prejudices from co-workers, especially when the nature of complaint is sensitive in nature – such as sexual harassment or discrimination based on race, religion and skin color.

Treat the victim or complainer with respect and pay careful attention to what they have to say. Even if the complainer has a history of making trivial complaints, it will be wise to not make assumptions prior, regarding their honest feedback.

  1. Conduct thorough investigation

After compiling testimonials from the complainer, you should confirm if the complaints are true and real, based on facts and findings from a thorough investigation. In this step, you might need to take some time out to conduct deep insightful interviews with both the accuser and the accused, as well as other parties involved.

To obtain an objective assessment, you should gather other evidences related to the discrimination or harassment case. Through this method, you can drawn upon a better evaluation of the case study.

  1. Document everything

It is critical for HR leaders to document every minutest detail – interviews, testimonials, and evidences taken during the investigation. This will be of great help when the accuser decides to report the case and extent of harassment faced to the higher authorities. Additionally, maintaining a record of sensitive issues will help create a better preventive policy to monitor discrimination and harassment at work.

  1. Prevent any form of retaliation

You should bear in mind that the complainer is the victim and he has no deliberate intention of filing a complaint and reporting issues, unless the problem is of serious nature. Hence, when your employee files a discrimination or harassment complaint, you should prevent any form of retaliatory actions. In a gist, everyone concerned in this case should prevent retaliation, as repercussions of your acts will include demotion, pay cuts, firing, or threats.

  1. Keep it confidential

During the investigation and even after the complaint is resolved, you should keep the details confidential. In cases where discrimination or harassment happenings is spread to the public, there is a high probability that your employee will show tendency to side a certain party. Such scenario is not healthy for employee relationships, since it will polarise your workplace.

Therefore, make sure that only related people are involved in the process. This strategy will help prevent employees from spreading rumours that might cause unnecessary conflict among co-workers.

  1. Take immediate action

When you have received the complaint and conducted needed inquiries, the next thing to do is taking immediate and concrete action to resolve the issue. Delaying the process could only worsen the situation, as the accuser might be compelled to look beyond and necessitate further legal action.

So when you possess all the evidences that strengthen your accusation, you should take immediate disciplinary action against the culprit to curb the acts right away.

Even if it means an employee approaches you with seemingly trivial complaints or a more serious issue, you need to engage yourself in the matter and conduct required examination. Indeed, resolving discrimination and harassment complaints in the workplace is not an easy task for HR managers and the senior management. However, when HR leaders take discrimination and harassment complaints seriously and address them with a careful well-thought strategy, you can save the employer brand repute from getting tainted or defamed in the industry, while improving upon employee relationships along the way.

Read also: Global Perceptions about Working Women and Attitudes of Men towards Work-Life Balance