Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Examine Your Employer's Complaint Process

If you are fighting against race-based issues at work, one of the areas you should carefully examine is your employer's complaint process. One of the tactics employers can use against complaining employees is to make accusations that the employee didn't report mistreatment, discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation. Or, they can argue that the employee didn't follow procedures and guidelines, didn't report issues to the proper authority, did not clearly indicate they thought their employment rights were being violated by specifically using words like "I'm the victim of discrimination," etc.

Many employees may already be fearful about complaining of abuses and may be hesitant to report problems to a supervisor, who may be the culprit. Employees may also not be aware of their specific employee rights, in general, or about the company's specific policies and procedures.

It's important to look at an employer's complaint policy to see if you are able to counter some of the accusations that may come from your employer about the way in which you complained of abuses. You also may be able to make the point that your employer put up obstacles to making complaints, which may suggest your employer tolerates and even encourages inappropriate and potentially illegal behavior. Do not let your employer's complaint process go unexamined.

According to the EEOC:

An employer's harassment complaint procedure should be designed to encourage victims to come forward. To that end, it should clearly explain the process and ensure that there are no unreasonable obstacles to complaints. A complaint procedure should not be rigid, since that could defeat the goal of preventing and correcting harassment. When an employee complains to management about alleged harassment, the employer is obligated to investigate the allegation regardless of whether it conforms to a particular format or is made in writing.

The complaint procedure should provide accessible points of contact for the initial complaint. A complaint process is not effective if employees are always required to complain first to their supervisors about alleged harassment, since the supervisor may be a harasser. Moreover, reasonable care in preventing and correcting harassment requires an employer to instruct all supervisors to report complaints of harassment to appropriate officials.

It is advisable for an employer to designate at least one official outside an employee's chain of command to take complaints of harassment. For example, if the employer has an office of human resources, one or more officials in that office could be authorized to take complaints. Allowing an employee to bypass his or her chain of command provides additional assurance that the complaint will be handled in an impartial manner, since an employee who reports harassment by his or her supervisor may feel that officials within the chain of command will more readily believe the supervisor's version of events.

It also is important for an employer's anti-harassment policy and complaint procedure to contain information about the time frames for filing charges of unlawful harassment with the EEOC or state fair employment practice agencies and to explain that the deadline runs from the last date of unlawful harassment, not from the date that the complaint to the employer is resolved. While a prompt complaint process should make it feasible for an employee to delay deciding whether to file a charge until the complaint to the employer is resolved, he or she is not required to do so.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

That’s helpful! I must talk about my situation because it makes it bearable, what was really interesting about my situation was that when I first reported the incident to the VP of the dept he dropped clues to the person I was reporting to and intentionally exposed my identity. In addition, when I reported the matter to the so called outside impartial section of the company they sent the information back to HR in all the regions. Apparently their process was to send the info back to the HR in all the regions then the HR people got together on a witch hunt to figure out, identify the complainant. After they identified me their targeted complainant they went all out on a “cloak and dagger” type corruption conspiracy to retaliate. The sad thing is that they had done this countless times before to the point they thought they were untouchable. Now ain't that something?

Your blog is helpful, because I just didn’t realize all of the corruptible blatant things that they were doing.

2:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So did u end u losing ur job? I too was discriminated against for doing my job but pissing off a supervisor. I complained to regional personnel and asked for a meeting with my former supervisor. She grabbed my witness and pushed her out of the office. I had already complained of her intimidation tactics. EEOC is now involved

8:37 PM  

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