HR Manager’s Guide To Addressing Workplace Discrimination

Categories: Advice for HR Professionals
female manager talking to employee

The world has come a long way in terms of diversity in the workplace, having a mix of races, genders, ages, ethnicities, and the like. An inclusive and diverse workplace that gives equal opportunity to all is has been proven to be effective in increasing the morale and productivity of its workforce.

However, discrimination against certain groups is still present today, such as pay gaps between genders or workers at a certain age bracket being overlooked for promotion. Considering this, proper enforcement of anti-discrimination laws in the workplace goes hand-in-hand in fostering a culture of equality and inclusion.

If an employee reported a case of discrimination in your company, here are steps on how to address discrimination in the workplace.

How to Address Workplace Discrimination Complaints

  1. Set up a clear and open HR complaint filing procedure

Employees may be afraid to file a complaint, especially against a supervisor or manager. For instance, a subordinate may feel uncomfortable about their manager’s sexist comment on their outfit. However, the difference in their positions can keep the subordinate from filing a complaint.

A clear and open complaint filing procedure can help foster an environment where employees can freely make their voices heard without the fear of being subjected to prejudice and intimidation.

To achieve this, you have to explain the process and possible outcomes that both parties will undergo depending on the severity of the complaint as clearly as possible. Keep them in the loop from the beginning of the investigation until the deciding body’s verdict on the accused’s penalty, if there is any.

On top of that, you should reassure complainants that everything will remain confidential. Since there may be sensitive details in the complaint, explain to both sides that exercising confidentiality will help resolve the complaint properly. This means giving pertinent information only to the relevant people.

  1. Get more information from the complainant

Creating a safe space for workers to openly express their concerns or experiences with workplace discrimination can help you decide on the proper course of action for their cases.

Victims of discrimination may feel unsafe and powerless in their situation. They may feel like no one will listen, especially if they are singled out for rocking the boat or being different from the rest. You have to keep an open mind and remember to treat them with respect and empathy.

By filing a complaint, understand that they are coming from a place of vulnerability and have mustered just enough courage to speak out their concerns. Be there to listen and remember to take them seriously, no matter how hard the pill is to swallow.

  1. Notify the respondent that a complaint is filed against them

To maintain a transparent and fair investigation, bring the complaint to the respondent’s attention. Get their side of the story to see a fuller picture of the incident. Confidentiality must also be present here. As you ask about the incident, reassure that the process will be confidential. This protects the privacy of both parties and aids in the timely resolution of the complaint.

However, there may be cases where respondents will intimidate the complainant into dropping the case. For this, remind respondents that victimizing complainants is unacceptable and that they will face repercussions if they do so.

  1. Conduct an impartial investigation

To conduct an impartial investigation, eliminate any biases and prejudice that may cloud your judgment. If you are too personally involved with the complaint, seek outside help for a fair and objective investigation.

Interview any possible witnesses in the incident to corroborate the details given by the complainant and the respondent. Another way to go about this is to interview people who best represent your organization’s groups and see if the same type of complaint is rampant in the office. Doing so can help you identify the root of the problem and figure out how to address discrimination in the workplace.

  1. Decisively take the appropriate action

After the investigation, decide on the appropriate action to best address the complaint. For example, a blatant show of racism can warrant an immediate termination of employment against the accused. Meanwhile, discrimination complaints that arise from misunderstandings or miscommunication can lead to disciplinary actions or counseling of the accused. 

Aside from this, the complainants or victims should have support from the company, such as counseling. If they feel too uncomfortable working with the accused again, it’s best to put them in a different group to keep their contact minimal.

When deciding on the proper outcome of the complaint, consider your company’s policies regarding discrimination and harassment and the appropriate support for the complainants. 

What If It’s An Anonymous Complaint?

Anonymous complaints arise when employees have just enough courage to file a complaint but still fear the backlash. These complaints can come from those who experience discriminatory acts themselves or a colleague filing on behalf of their fellow employee. 

Complaints such as these may be challenging, especially when you don’t have any leads to where they came from and may have difficulty progressing. However, promoting an inclusive culture in the workplace means taking complaints against discrimination seriously, anonymous or not. 

Some anonymous claims may still include names, which you can use as a starting point in your investigation. You can check other forms of evidence to corroborate the story with the information you have. This way, you can develop an appropriate course of action.

However, they may be general complaints or experiences of discrimination in the workplace. In cases like these, you can address the issue in general terms, such as conducting seminars like gender sensitivity talks, PWD awareness months, and the like. You can also offer to counsel victims of discrimination and reinforce your company’s policies against discrimination in the workplace.

Working Together Works

Businesses around the globe are diversifying their talent pool. An inclusive workplace that promotes equal opportunity for all enables an organization to withstand the test of time. Moreover, the combined perspectives of a mixed group can effectively help solve business problems.

However, discrimination in the workplace is still present, and minorities often experience this even in the subtlest ways. Employers must address discrimination complaints with utmost care and seriousness. 

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