By: Jennifer Davis Cain,Career Center Executive Director
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Investigate Employee Complaints to Avoid Liability for Employee Wrong-doing
In the workplace, there may be employee complaints regarding harassment, fraud, theft, discrimination, and other misconduct. When complaints are not handled appropriately, the company may experience increased exposure to employment-related liability. In the long run, there may be financial loss, damages, and penalties issued from regulating agencies. Every employer should take initiative to investigate employee complaints to ensure a non-discriminatory and safe working environment.
There are many benefits in having an investigation procedure/policy in place, including:
- Employers that take the time to determine if “misconduct” did occur can pinpoint whether there was a violation of governing regulations and/or company policy. If so, the employer can prepare documentation in the form of evidence in a timely manner in case a lawsuit is filed.
- In investigations, employers tend to engage in mini-audits to see if policies/procedures were equitably and lawfully enforced. This helps businesses access their vulnerabilities within specific policies and determine how violations are/should be handled.
- When employers allow for open communication and create an environment that allows for employee feedback/complaints, they improve the process of internal reporting by saving time (and bringing a faster end to misconduct), versus having external agencies involved, which can consume time and money. This practice also enhances the employer’s reputation for being cooperative with the parties involved versus looking unfavorable in the eyes of others.
- Employee feedback/complaints allow for managers to foster an environment that allows for growth and awareness of weaknesses to be improved. When employers take the time to investigate employee complaints, they can determine which training topics need to be available for workplace engagement purposes. For example, if previous lawsuits or complaints involved issues regarding safety hazards, a workshop or training session about safety hazards may be initiated.
To understand and prevent or decrease employee complaints consider:
- Instituting an “Open Door” policy.
- Having a useful internal investigation procedure/policy in place.
- Ensuring complaints are thoroughly, carefully, and fairly investigated.
- To understand the investigation process steps, refer to the “Workplace Investigations Guide,” available in the HR Support Center.
Often employers brush off employee issues/complaints as insignificant and do not realize that doing so may cost them in the long run, especially if a regulatory agency becomes involved. Employee relations, including complaint investigations, are critical for business success and maintaining equitable/compliant workplaces and successful working relationships.
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