Employees facing racial harassment are often confused about what steps to take to complain and stop the harasser. They also frequently do not know how to deal with management once it becomes involved in the matter. The following should assist employees coping with the situation in bringing the matter to a successful resolution.
- Communicate that Harassing Conduct is Unwelcome
A victim should always make it clear to the harasser that the harassing conduct is unwelcome. This eliminates any confusion or misunderstanding as the to welcomeness of the conduct.
- Employer’s Harassment Policy and Reporting Mechanism
It is advisable to find and review the harassment policy or ask someone in HR or management for a copy. If no written harassment policy is in place, supervisors, managers and/or HR representatives may offer some suggestions as to whom a racial harassment complaint should be lodged. Most harassment policies contain a specific complaint mechanism. Some employment handbooks also contain an employer’s racial harassment policy and complaint mechanism.
- Complaint Channels in Racial Harassment Policy or Handbook
A complaint should follow the reporting mechanism provided in the employer’s racial harassment policy or employment handbook. If the harasser is in the employee’s chain of command, most policies provide an avenue that permits the employee to complain to someone outside her chain of command. This may also avoid the prospect of possible retaliation by the alleged harasser who is over the victim in rank.
- Written Complaints with Specifics of Harassment
A written complaint that provides much detail is effective in most instances. Such details may include names, times, dates, actual comments and those present when comments were made. A detailed complaint in writing with specifics is more likely to be taken seriously by management. It also creates a record that is more accurate since it is done when memories of the events are fresh in the mind of the victim.
- Formal Investigation by Employer
After management receives the complaint, it is likely to commence a formal investigation of the complaint. Some employers may suspend the harasser with pay or transfer him pending an investigation of the allegations. Other employers have different mechanisms to ensure that the alleged harasser does not attempt to influence witnesses or retaliate against the victim.
- Expectation of Cooperation with Investigation
Most employers require victims to cooperate with management’s investigation of the allegations. Most employers require that the victim be prepared to meet and provide the specifics of the misconduct, identifying witnesses and answering any questions that management asks in an attempt to complete the investigation.
- Confidentiality of Facts and Witnesses
During an employer’s investigation, other employees frequently start discussing the allegations and have questions for the victim as well as the harasser. Some employers require that the facts of the harassment and investigation be kept confidential and not discussed by the victim or witnesses. Confidentiality is also important in order for the employee’s comments not to not to interfere with the investigation.
- Transfers and Reassignments Due to Harassment Complaint
Employers sometimes suggest a transfer or reassignment of the victim at the conclusion of the investigation. Such are typically done with utmost care so that the victim is not placed in a worse position than before the complaint. Most employers would discipline the harasser also if the allegations are proven to be true.