How To Efficiently Handle Discrimination Disputes In The Workplace

August 28, 2018    Blog, Workplace & Commercial Disputes - Mediation

discrimination disputesEmployees expect to work in an environment free of discrimination, and employers need to be prepared to mediate any workplace disputes with confidence and ease. In the United States in 2016, there was a total of 91,503 workplace discrimination charges. To effectively handle discrimination disputes, employers need to give each situation the attention it deserves by taking certain steps.

Determine the type of investigation needed

Each workplace conflict is unique and should be treated as such. Employers first need to decide if the complaint requires a full-scale investigation, or if it can be resolved through less formal, mediated discussions. Employers need to determine if this is a conflict in which there is a timeline of events and list of facts that they have to get to the bottom of, or if it is more about getting the involved people to work together comfortably. Employers should also look at the bigger picture to see if these discrimination disputes are systemic in the company, or if it is a specific and personal issue between two people.

Follow any clear internal procedures

Companies should already have policies and procedures laid out for discrimination disputes, and each employee would have — theoretically — signed them. As this likely falls within HR issues, check with the HR manager about what the company policy dictates and how to follow the standard procedure as closely as possible. At this stage, if it is clear that the dispute needs a formal investigation, the company’s internal or external lawyers should get involved. When they’re involved early, it allows for a more effective investigation process and helps to manage legal risk.

Get to the core of the complaint

As the complaining employee’s emotions may be running high, they may express feeling wronged on practical, emotional, and career levels. The employer needs to really converse with the complainant to identify exactly what they need to investigate and understand what kind of resolution they are looking for. Employers should be wary of promising any outcomes or specific resolutions, as that will only create high expectations for the wronged employee.

Resolve through mediation

If the two people in the conflict feel comfortable sitting with each other, then the employer and HR team should conduct a workplace mediation. This type of informal resolution avoids dragging everyone into court, which can get long, messy, and costly. In mediation, a neutral party will facilitate a discussion between the parties involved, with the goal of coming to a resolution together. The neutral party is typically a trained member of the HR department, or a hired professional. When mediation is not possible or sufficient, the complaining employee can either file a civil lawsuit for damages or file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Center (EEOC).

Ideally, lawyers and judges do not have to get involved in discrimination disputes, and they can instead be handled internally by effectively following company policies and taking the time to listen to the complaints.