When an employee makes a complaint about harassment or discrimination in the workplace it doesn’t mean that the employee should be shunned from the team or fired from their job. These complaints need to be addressed in order to protect your organization from serious legal risks. This usually isn’t the case and many people who make a complaint in the workplace experience some form of retaliation – whether it is by peers in the workplace or by those at various levels of management.
Your company’s image can be greatly tarnished when slammed with allegations of retaliation against employees who made complaints. There are many laws that make retaliation illegal in the workplace, but it’s also important to let employees know that you have taken action above and beyond the law to ensure that retaliation is never present at work.
There are steps you can take in order to protect both yourself and your business from retaliation claims. Some of the steps that have been outlined in the article “Preventing Retaliation Claims” from HRWorld.com and “Revenge Isn’t Wise” from HR.com are listed below:
- Develop a Policy - Develop a policy outlining what retaliation is, let employees know that there is zero tolerance for retaliation in the workplace and outline what an employee should do should they feel any retaliation taken towards them. Review this policy with every employee to ensure their understanding of retaliation and its consequences in the workplace.
- Keep it Confidential - The less people who know, the better. Keep discrimination or harassment complaints confidential in order to decrease the possibility of retaliation. The more people who know, the more opportunity for retaliation.
- Establish an Early Warning System - Have a procedure in place that allows for direct contact with the complaining employee for the first few days after the complaint is made. It’s important that this employee relations or hr representative be in place to catch any retaliation before it can happen. By ensuring the subject of the complaint isn’t in the middle, you can ensure the incident is handled appropriately and prevent relatiation.
- Talk it Out - Speak with employees that make complaints to let them know that you are taking their concerns seriously. Let them know that retaliation in the workplace is not tolerated and to keep you informed if they experience any negativity towards them due to their complaints.
- Keep it in Writing - Always document and record any conversations/action you have taken in regards to the incident. It might even be a wise idea to have the complaining employee sign a letter stating that you informed them of the policy and measures taken to prevent retaliation in the workplace. The i-Sight investigation software provide a centralized case file to ensure that team members can record notes, send emails and attach exhibits so you have a clear audit trail.
- Ensure Just Cause – It’s a tricky situation when an employee who has made a complaint in the past is no longer meeting their obligations in the workplace. If an employee is no longer complying with the requirements of their job and they are being demoted or let go, it is important to document the changes in their performance and explain your reasoning to them with evidence, as many employees in this situation would mistaken these actions as retaliation.
Training deserves its own spot outside of the list above because it can have a huge impact on how everyone in the workplace handles complaints and can work together to help prevent retaliation. In this posting on HR.com, they recognize the difficulty of handling these types of complaints, as many people become offended when someone accuses them of acting in an inappropriate manner.
The article encourages managers to avoid being unprofessional and avoid making the situation worse than it already is. Train managers to properly respond to these claims and avoid actual or perceived retaliation. It ‘s also important to train employees on the information and steps that are outlined in the anti-retaliation policy.
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Benefits of Training:
Here are the benefits of training employees as outlined in the article “Revenge Isn’t Wise: Avoiding Retaliation Claims”:
- Increases the likelihood of early detection and reporting of forms of retaliation.
- Emphasizes the importance of this topic by the employer and makes any failure to complain harder for the employee to explain.
- Employer can learn about alleged unlawful conduct in the workplace as soon as possible.
- Early detection frequently means that corrective steps can be taken before the problem becomes escalated. When false or questionable complaints are received, the employer can build a record while memories are fresh and the witnesses are still reachable.