Submitting a complaint to Human Resources (HR) typically comes after someone has experienced a situation in the workplace that has made them feel unsafe, uncomfortable, or unhappy in their environment.
It can take a lot of courage and drive to be able to go to HR, and sometimes, the process will be so overwhelming that people may not consider the bigger picture. Many people assume that speaking to a supervisor or a member of HR in person is enough to constitute a formal complaint. However, that’s not the case.
Only a written complaint can be formal, whereas verbal complaints are typically only seen as a statement of dissatisfaction. Since verbal complaints do not have a paper trail, they can often come down to an issue of he-said-she-said. To cover their own bases, your company might act like the conversation never happened. So, your best option is to submit a written complaint that cannot be ignored.
What are the Benefits of Submitting a Formal Written Complaint?
When you submit a formal, written human resources complaint, you leave a paper trail of your complaint that the HR department must address. Essentially, you are putting the HR department on notice that your complaint is serious and could be taken further, if necessary. It is likely that they will work quickly to try to find a solution to your problem, and if all goes well, the situation could be resolved entirely without legal intervention.
If your complaint is serious enough for you to seek legal help, a written complaint to HR will show that you took proactive steps to bring the issue to the attention of your company. If the issue isn’t solved that way, then you will have a strong case for your legal team to put together. The courts will see that you made efforts to find a solution, even if it wasn’t resolved that way.
Aside from the benefits, you might see if your issue becomes a legal one, submitting a complaint to HR can also help you take advantage of things you might not know about. You might be able to take medical leave for mental health, claim government benefits, or receive accommodations through formal human resources complaints.
Are you experiencing an issue at work, but you’re not sure whether you should submit a formal complaint yet? Here are some tips for identifying when it’s a good time to make a complaint about the issue.
When Should You Make a Formal Complaint?
If you have experienced workplace harassment (including sexual harassment), discrimination, or illegal conduct of any kind, it is a good idea to submit a formal complaint. Even if you are facing a problem that causes you to stress or affects your health, submitting a formal complaint might help you find solutions that you haven’t previously considered. It is especially important to try to find a solution if the situation is impacting your rights, your health, or your ability to do your job.
Some of common incidents reported to HR are:
- Harassment, including sexual or against any protected class, including race, colour, religion or creed, national origin, sex (including gender, pregnancy, sexual orientation, and gender identity), age, disability, veteran status, genetic information, and citizenship.
- Discrimination based on any protected class
- Coworker disputes
- Micromanaging resulting in a toxic work environment
- A lack of resources or supports
- Inadequate pay
- Poor communication
- And many more
However, before you make a formal human resources complaints. It might be prudent to ensure that you have addressed the issue beforehand, provided you feel safe doing so. For example, if your coworker has been sending emails that don’t sit right with you. Make sure you bring up the issue with them before sending in a complaint.
If you have addressed the issue and it hasn’t gone away. Then it’s a good time to bring the issue to HR. If you aren’t sure if your issue is safe to bring to HR. Then it might be a good idea to seek legal advice. Issues that go high up in the company. The issues about things that are personal and do not stem from your job. Also things that will directly affect the company might not be items to bring to HR.
If you’re worried about the potential fallout from submitting a complaint. Or if you are unsatisfied with how things turn out, then you can turn to an employment lawyer for help. But it is unlikely that reporting to HR will hurt you. If your employer fails to investigate, then you may be able to claim damages against them.
After you submit your complaint, the onus will be on HR to investigate the issue and try to find a solution that suits everyone. Be conscious that you may not be able to be anonymous through this process, especially if a lengthy investigation follows.
If you’re ready to bring your complaint forward, here are some tips for your next steps.
Tips for Submitting a Complaint to HR
When writing a formal complaint, be sure to include:
- Who is involved in the situation(s) and their relationship to you
- When and where each incidence occurred
- The event, including what they said and how you reacted
- Any witnesses to the situation(s)
- Any evidence you might have, including recordings, emails, notes, or photographs
It’s a good idea to format your letter professionally and maintain a professional voice when writing. Be detailed, thorough, and honest wherever possible. If you can, do your research and propose a solution if you see one.
When you have written your letter, make sure it is dated, and print a copy for yourself. It’s a good idea to make sure that you have a copy of the letter in case your access to your email account is ever lost.
If you are an employee wondering about submitting an HR complaint, our team of experienced workplace lawyers at Achkar Law can help. Contact us by phone toll-free at 1 (800) 771-7882 or email us at email@example.com, and we will be happy to assist.
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