Three Tips for Complaining About Discrimination / Harassment

harassment-discrimination-complaintIt is important that you follow a three simple rules when complaining about discrimination, harassment or retaliation that you believe you or your co-workers are being subjected to:

1. Complain in writing. Oral complaints are often forgot or misunderstood. You would also be surprised how often the employer denies the very fact that an employee complained about discrimination or harassment. When all you have is your word against the word of your manager as to whether you actually complained it is going to be an uphill battle to prove that you actually complained. On the other hand, complaining in writing by e-mail, or by fax with proof of transmission will ensure that the employer cannot back out from conceding that they knew about your complaints.

2. Make sure you complaints are concise and to the point.  One of the most common mistakes that employees make when submitting a written complaint is making it far too long. Recently I saw a 35-page “complaint” that looked more like an novel, which included the history of employee’s excellent performance and contributions to the company, some political references, personal attacks on managers, and other irrelevant information which has nothing to do the complaints themselves. Besides talking about the harassment, the employee went into great detail about how it affected and continues to affect him emotionally.  A reader would have to devote at least half an hour to get the gist of the complaint. Lengthy complaints are bad for two reasons. First, they don’t get prompt attention. People in charge tend to read short letters and short e-mails first and tend to put the longer writings on a “back burner” until they have more time to focus on that. Some of that longer material may well be completely overlooked and never get the attention it so badly needs. There is no reason why anyone’s complaint should be longer than two pages.

3. Make sure that your complaints are specific.  Simply using such words as discrimination, harassment, abusive, hostile, etc… doesn’t really say much to the reader. Therefore, in addition to using those generic, legal terms, you should specifically describe that actions that you believe are discriminatory or harassing. Quote specific words and describe specific actions, so that the manager reading your complaint knows exactly what’s going on. For instance, stating in your complaint that your co-worker through a heavy stapler at you and hit your head is better than saying that your co-worker has violent tendencies. Likewise, stating that your boss told you that he would like to bend you over his desk and has his way with you is much more compelling of a complaint than simple saying that your co-workers has made inappropriate sexual advances toward.

By following the above three important tips when complaining about discrimination, harassment or retaliation, you will both help yourself and help the employer to be informed of the nature of your complaints better and quicker, and as a result to hopefully take action to remedy harassment/discrimination sooner than later regardless of what your employer’s true intentions are.

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