What To Do If An Employee Alleges Workplace Misconduct.
In today’s business world, companies are under increasing scrutiny from regulators and third parties. Decreased trust in businesses is a factor in why consumers are becoming more conscious of company ethics.
Working ethically and effectively is challenging for businesses that are operating at capacity and trying to maintain high standards of integrity. In any workplace, issues may arise where an employee feels something unethical has taken place or that an employee has engaged in misconduct that threatens the reputation of the business or puts other employees at risk.
If an employee makes a claim you believe to be unfounded, there could be significant consequences if your response is not appropriate under the circumstances. It’s important to know what to do if an employee alleges workplace misconduct so as not to create legal liability for your company.
Step One: Take note of the details
When an employee first comes to you with a complaint, it’s important to be empathetic and hear the employee out. Take note of the circumstances and ask for details about the employee’s version of events.
If an employee has filed a formal complaint with human resources, it’s best to wait for the results of an investigation before taking action. This allows you to respond to what actually occurred and allows you to take appropriate action based on the facts. If a complaint or allegation comes from one employee to another, it’s important to have a conversation in private. A conversation in public can create an unhealthy work environment, especially if the allegations are of a sensitive nature. If the complaint is about you or another executive, having a conversation with a third party present can help to avoid any misunderstandings.
Step Two: Consult a lawyer
If the allegations made by an employee are serious, it’s best to consult a lawyer even before you engage with the employee. This will allow you to understand how to respond to the allegation and whether or not it’s necessary to take action against the employee bringing the complaint. While you don’t want to obstruct the investigation process with an over-defensive approach, you also don’t want to be blindsided by accusations that are not accurate.
If the allegation is initiated by an employee but is general in nature, you may not need to consult a lawyer. However, if the complaint involves a specific employee or is of a sensitive nature, it’s best to have a professional help you navigate the conversation.
Step Three: Evaluate the allegation
If an employee has made a complaint, it’s important to take time to understand the allegation and consider the ramifications of the situation. You don’t want to respond to the situation in a way that makes the situation worse, but you also don’t want to allow the situation to fester.
Take time to understand why the employee feels the way they do and consider their perspective. That said, you also need to be able to respond appropriately to the specific allegation.
Communicate the company’s policies and the expectation that employees are responsible for upholding those policies. If the complaint is against you, you may want to consider bringing in an outside investigator to investigate the complaint. Ultimately, you want to demonstrate that you are willing to investigate the complaint thoroughly and impartially.
Step Four: Hold a meeting to address employee concerns
If the complaint is general in nature and doesn’t involve a specific incident, you may want to invite the employee to a meeting to discuss their concerns in a neutral environment. This can give you the opportunity to respond to the employee’s concerns and it can help to diffuse the situation. It can also be useful if the employee has multiple concerns about a variety of policies, procedures, or practices in the workplace.
Holding a meeting can help you to identify the issues causing the employee concern so you can work to correct them. If the complaint is tied to a specific incident, you may want to consider holding a meeting with the involved parties. This can give the employee bringing the complaint an opportunity to explain their concerns and it can give you the opportunity to respond.
Step Five: Take disciplinary action if warranted
If an investigation concludes that the employee’s complaint has merit, it’s important to take appropriate disciplinary action. This can vary depending on the nature of the complaint. If the complaint has to do with work performance, you may want to consider a written warning against the employee.
If the complaint is about a violation of the company’s policies or code of conduct, you may want to consider a written or verbal warning. If the complaint is about a violation of company policy or code of conduct, you may have to make a decision about termination. Be careful in this situation as an employee can bring a wrongful termination lawsuit against the company, particularly if they believe they were terminated because they brought a complaint.
When an employee comes to you with a complaint or allegation, it’s important to respond appropriately and not overreact. Take note of the details of the complaint, evaluate the allegation, and respond based on the facts.
If the complaint is legitimate, take disciplinary action against the employee who is the subject of the complaint and consider making adjustments to company policy or code of conduct to prevent similar situations in the future.
If the complaint is unfounded, you may want to consider bringing the complaint to the attention of the third party who made the request for information. In any situation, it’s important to respond appropriately and not create liability for the company.
Contact Jolasers to discuss any workplace misconduct issues.
A video detailing workplace misconduct.