Bartz Law Group

Employee Rights Advocates

How to Handle Harassment and Discrimination Complaints

Harassment and Discrimination Complaints

California employee laws allow employees to report discrimination or harassment in the workplace to their employers or relevant authority. Harassment and discrimination complaints should be dealt with immediately.

Failing to investigate harassment and discrimination complaints can attract lawsuits and hefty fines. Consequently, employers and employees should know California employee laws to protect themselves legally.

How to Handle Employee Complaints

The following actions should be taken by employers when an employee brings a harassment or discrimination complaint:

  • Listen to the victim;
  • Take complaints seriously;
  • Do not retaliate against employees;
  • Keep reported complaints confidential;
  • Investigate the situation as soon as possible;
  • Document the investigation;
  • Consider hiring a third party to investigate the complaint;
  • Discipline the guilty party;
  • Listen to the alleged perpetrator;
  • Make a fair judgment; and
  • Take the time to listen to the accuser’s complaint.

What you should avoid when resolving employee complaints:

  1. Never assume all complaints are genuine;
  2. Never make  unfounded conclusions;
  3. Never fail to establish the affected characteristic of employment; and
  4. Never fail to investigate.

1. Never Retaliate

Retaliation means targeting an employee unfairly for reporting malpractices in the workplace. The EEOC protects employees against retaliation. Retaliatory actions can include:

  • Firing;
  • Harassing;
  • Demoting;
  • Pay cuts;
  • Work reassignments, and more.

2. Complaints Should be Kept Confidential

The details of a complaint should be kept confidential even when it’s hard to keep things confidential.  Confidentiality prevents other employees from taking sides or spreading false rumors. However, the complainant should know that some details will likely be disclosed during the investigation.

3. Act Immediately

Failing to investigate a complaint immediately could create some challenges, including:

  • Delaying the investigation means the employer doesn’t take the complaint seriously;
  • Delay can cause further harassment;
  • Relevant evidence may be lost; and
  •  Increased indiscipline of the accused.

4. Conduct a Thorough Investigation

A thorough investigation involves interviewing all the parties involved, including witnesses. The following questions can come in handy during the investigation process:

  • What happened;
  • Did the act happen at work;
  • What were the exact words; and
  • Were there any witnesses;

5. Document the Investigation

It is important to document the investigation process because such information can be essential evidence if a dissatisfied employee files the same complaint with the EEOC. The EEOC will likely ask for a copy of the documented information.

Documentation should include the employer’s findings, actions taken by the employer (discipline imposed), reasons for failing to discipline the accused, and conclusions.

6. Make a Fair Ruling

It’s time to make a ruling after listening to all parties. Your judgment should be determined by the facts of the case and the evidence presented by each party.

Ensure you make a fair judgment to prevent lawsuits or filing the same case with another authority, such as the EOCC. Always remember that the litigation process is typically costly.

Harassment and discrimination cases in the workplace are considered serious offenses. It’s, therefore, wise to consult an employment law attorney for personalized legal advice on the best way forward.