Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Basic Questions You Will Answer In a Complaint

If you file a complaint of discrimination, harassment and/or retaliation, you will have to answer many questions in order to get the investigation rolling and to prove your version of events. If you are dealing with an internal (company-led) investigation, the investigator (HR, etc.) may or may not be very thorough, depending on how they decide they want to proceed. At a company that is used to stone-walling these complaints or has a pattern of derailing race-based complaints, they may not ask many questions as a means of finding that the complaint is baseless/without merit.

However, a fair and objective investigation would call for a series of questions, which may lead to other questions or revelations. Anyway, the basic questions you should be prepared to answer in an investigation include:

• Who is bullying, intimidating, discriminating or retaliating against you?

• What specifically happened?

- What comments were made?
- What actions were taken?
- What day and time did this occur?
- Was this a one-time incident?
- Repeat? If so, how many times did this happen? (describe each situation)
- Is it still continuing? If so, what was the most recent incident?

• What was the impact? (state the professional and personal consequences that occurred as a result of the actions taken against you)

-Think about tangible employment actions, which are any actions taken by employers or their agents that impact hiring, firing, promotions, transfers, disability etc. Describe how certain actions led to you being denied a promotion or terminated from your job, etc.

- Are you now being subjected to an offensive work environment marked by intimidation, harassment, bullying, disparate/unequal treatment, etc.? If so, describe these conditions.

• How did you respond to the situation?

- Who did you speak to/report the incident to? List dates, times, and responses.
- What specifically did you tell them? Describe fully--this will help you keep track of what authority figures knew and when they knew it.
- Did you correspond with your superiors or Human Resources in writing? List names, dates of correspondence, and responses. (Note: If you participate in face-to-face meetings, you should always follow-up the meetings with a quick email in order to create an undeniable record of what transpired.)
- Did you address the individual who is the perpetrator of this incident? What was their response? Did you come to a solution?

• Who are your witnesses? List their names, titles, and the dates of incidences they observed.

• Who else has been harassed, etc. by this person? List their names and any information that is available regarding their harassment, including dates or the approximate time frame of the mistreatment and illegal activities.

- Does the perpetrator have any outstanding complaints against him/her? List specifics, if available.

• How would you like to resolve this issue?

- What would you like to happen? (your dream scenario) What is the minimum that you would find as an acceptable solution to resolve the problem? For instance, you may only want an apology from the perpetrator or you may want an apology, restitution of your salary, and the perpetrator to be placed in training that is appropriate for the offense they committed (e.g., diversity training).


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