How to Deal with Employee Complaints

Every business must know how to deal with employee complaints. Employees may complain that they were unfairly treated, that the company did not follow its own policies, or that the employees were discriminated against in violation of state or federal law. A proper response to an employee complaint can resolve the matter before it becomes costly and cumbersome. 
Make Sure Proper Procedures are in Place
The proper response to an employee complaint begins before an individual employee makes a complaint. Businesses should have employee handbooks in place that describe how employee complaints will be handled. They should then follow their own dispute resolution procedures when a complaint is filed. This will help ensure that every employee complaint is provided the same type of investigation and the chance for an outcome that is considered equitable by the employee, other employees and business owners.
Conduct Thorough Investigations
It is important to conduct thorough investigations in accordance with your company’s pre-established investigation procedures so that you come to an unbiased outcome of the investigation. Your investigation will begin when an investigator is appointed. Larger companies may have different investigators for different types of complaints (i.e. sexual harassment, discrimination, work condition violations). Smaller companies may have one investigator for all employee complaints. It is important that the investigator be someone who is considered to be fair and who is trusted by both the employees and management. Often, a human resources employee is a good investigator.
The investigation should provide the employee who made the complaint ample opportunity to talk to the investigator, to provide the names of witnesses and to provide copies of any documentation which supports the employee’s claim. The investigator should thoroughly review the information provided by the employee, by the employer and by any other employees who are involved in the employee’s allegations or might have firsthand knowledge of the alleged problem.
Inform Complainants of Investigation Findings and Resolutions
The employee should be informed in writing of the investigation results. It is important to be as detailed as possible in your findings. The findings should detail the investigation steps taken and the reasons why the company came to the conclusion that it did. If the company found merit in the employee’s complaint then the investigation findings should also detail what the company is going to do to remedy the situation and take steps to prevent it from happening again. For example, the business may agree that an employee was unfairly denied a raise in retaliation for not accepting a supervisor’s sexual advances. The business may award the employee a raise, with compensatory back pay for the time that she was improperly denied the raise. The business should also provide training for supervisors about sexual harassment and implement a system to make sure that all employees are working in an environment free of sexual harassment.
In order to promote a good working environment and to protect the business from litigation, it is important to thoroughly investigate and carefully document all matters related to employee complaints.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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