Employees are generally concerned about filing a workplace complaint. The two most comment questions that employees have are: Will my complaint be confidential? And will I be retaliated against for reporting my concerns.
While employers should have clear policies for complaint reporting, many don’t. This makes the filing of a complaint even more scary for the employee who got up the nerve to finally report the concern that is personal to the employee.
What is even worse, is when my clients report that their employers try to discourage the reporting of complaints and do not take any action to eliminate the Complainant’s concerns.
So what should the employee know and do to file a complaint and have that complaint properly investigated?
First, employees should know that if they make a complaint, it cannot always be kept confidential. Why? Because in order to investigate the complaint, the employer will need to speak with the person(s) that you are alleging engaged in the wrongdoing, as well as any potential witnesses.
Second, the employee should document their complaint so that there is a clear record of the complaint. In my practice I have come across many employers, for various reasons, who do not document complaints raised by their employees. The employee should protect themselves and make sure that the report is documented, either using the employer’s complaint form, if any, or through email.
Third, the employee should provide relevant documents. Any documents provided should also be retained by the employee. It is helpful to submit any relevant documents by email, so that there is a record of the documents and the employee’s sending them.
Fourth, the employee should provide names of possible witnesses. To assist in the investigation, the employee should provide the names of others who may have witnessed the subject(s) of the complaint(s) or may have been subjected to the same or similar conduct.
Fifth, the employee should ask the expected timing of the investigation. It is helpful to know if the investigation is expected to take a few days or a few months. This may be dependent on the specifics of the complaint itself and how many people may have been involved or have information related to the employee’s concerns.
Sixth, the employee should ask if there will be a written finding and will the employee receive a copy. Many times the company will verbally provide a verbal finding to the employee. However, the employer may be preparing a written statement for their records. The employee can request a written finding or put the finding in writing on their own.
Seventh, the employee should request interim action be taken during the investigation, if warranted. Depending on the nature of the complaint, interim action may be sought (i.e. paid or unpaid leave of absence for the victim or accused; transfer, etc.).
Eighth, the employee should seek confirmation that the employee will not be retaliated against for making this complaint. Employees should not be subject to retaliation for coming forward and most employer’s have anti-retaliation policies. However, it is helpful for employees to reiterate their concerns and have the employer put this promise of no retaliation in writing.
For assistance in reporting workplace complaints and/or guidance in understanding the process or with the outcome, contact Sheree Donath at (516) 522-2743 or at sheree@donathlaw.