Complaints and Investigations: What you need to know

He or she may claim discrimination, harassment, misconduct by a co-worker or supervisor, or any of a variety of other allegations that could lead to disciplinary action or even litigation. In many unionized companies, complaints are called grievances and negotiations or contracts may govern the proper procedures when an employee files a grievance. Even in nonunion firms, some aspects of complaint handling, such as retaliating in any way against an employee who lodges a complaint, may be subject to federal regulation under the National Labor Relations Act or Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) guidelines. Ensuring that human resources responds to all complaints promptly and thoroughly reduces the chance of employee lawsuits and helps foster an atmosphere of respect and trust. For many types of complaints, planning an internal investigation should be one of the first steps HR takes.
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Failure to investigate and address an internal problem in a prompt, respectful, and fair manner can encourage litigation. An employer can be held liable if the initial recipient of the complaint either ignores it or tells the employee not to pursue it. The best way to avoid bungling the process is to have a written complaint resolution or grievance procedure in place. The procedure should be disseminated to all employees through the employee handbook and should direct aggrieved employees to reasonable and neutral decision makers.
Individuals designated to receive discrimination complaints are often high-level HR executives, in-house counsel, or respected managers. There should be more than one channel by which a complaint can be made, but it's not wise to have a ...

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