Establishing a process to resolve complaints of discrimination and harassment can improve staff satisfaction and help avoid complaints to external agencies or other legal action.
Under federal anti-discrimination laws, if an organisation argues that the organisation should not be held liable for any discrimination or harassment by one of its employees, the organisation will need to demonstrate that it had taken all reasonable steps to prevent or avoid the discrimination or harassment.
An important factor in deciding whether the organisation had done enough to prevent discrimination is whether there was an effective complaint handling procedure in place.
A good complaint process will be fair, confidential, transparent, accessible and efficient. It is good practice to offer both informal and formal complaint handling procedures.
Example of an informal procedure: An employee believes they have been sexually harassed by a colleague. The employee asks their supervisor to speak to the alleged harasser on their behalf. The supervisor privately conveys the individual’s concerns and reiterates the organisation’s sexual harassment policy to the alleged harasser without assessing the merits of the case.
Example of a formal procedure: An employee believes they have been sexually harassed. The employee makes a formal complaint to the supervisor. The supervisor then investigates the claims to determine whether they occurred. Management undertakes a process to determine the most appropriate outcome.