Human resources investigations into employee complaints

By: Gregg Zeff
On: August 31, 2022

HR complaint investigation file

When should you file an HR complaint at work?

Your workplace should always feel like a safe place. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. It’s not uncommon for employees to feel uncomfortable or upset with their work environment. Many businesses have an HR department to help employees work through these issues or resolve conflicts, but sometimes it might be difficult knowing when it’s the right time to finally ask a company representative for help filing an official HR complaint. If you have merely had a disagreement with a coworker, or you simply dislike a colleague, this alone may not be grounds for involving an HR representative. However, there are some clear-cut circumstances in which you should always ask for HR assistance:

  • Your benefits or paychecks are being withheld
  • You have been threatened or asked to do something illegal
  • You are being harassed or discriminated against
  • If you feel as though your workplace does not have appropriate safeguards against workplace hazards

In these cases, you should reach out to the HR department to get someone on your side to help you resolve these issues and restore your workplace rights.

What kind of evidence should you provide to support your HR complaint?

The type of evidence needed depends on the type of issue that you are reporting. An HR representative (or an employment lawyer) can help you identify evidence that will support your position. If you are concerned that you are not receiving your benefits or your paycheck, showing a bank statement or account statement with the missing contributions is one way to provide evidence of those benefits being withheld. If you are reporting instances of harassment or discrimination, helpful evidence would include examples of derogatory language being used, emails with hateful undertones, or eyewitness accounts of unwelcome behavior. If your complaint is related to workplace safety, simply showing the representative the hazardous workplace conditions can be sufficient evidence for your HR complaint.

How much investigation into your complaint will HR conduct?

Whenever an HR complaint is filed, there should always be some sort of investigation. However, the scope of the investigation will depend upon the severity of the allegations, how long the undesirable behavior has been occurring, and how convincing the available evidence is. An investigation will likely involve interviews with any employees involved in the conflict, interviews with any other witness, review of communications, such emails or messages, and any other relevant documentation that relates to the issue. It is okay to ask your HR department for a general outline of things they intend on investigating to make suggestions for things they may want to look into. Keep in mind however that while HR is investigating your claim, they may be hesitant to share all the details of their investigation until they have thoroughly investigated the claims.

Complaint investigation

What standards must the investigation meet?

In most cases, there is no law that details what standard an HR investigation must meet. Nonetheless, most HR representatives will strive to complete a thorough and complete investigation before any disciplinary or corrective actions are made. The other important thing is that the company representative should set reasonable standards when you file the HR complaint, explaining their estimations for how long an investigation may take, and keep you apprised of the general status of the investigation. Failure to keep you updated of the status of an investigation can serve as evidence of a poorly conducted investigation later down the road, if necessary. Once HR has taken some restorative action, they should inform you of that fact, but in many cases, they are not always required to disclose disciplinary actions that may have been taken.

When should you call an employment lawyer to resolve your HR complaint?

If you have filed an HR complaint and feel as though company representatives have not adequately investigated your claim or have not done enough to resolve the issues you have raised, it may be time to speak with an employment law attorney. An employment lawyer will have the skill set to know how to best present your claim, and whether the HR team has done enough to protect you and your rights in your workplace. They will always advocate for your best interests and help you build a case against your employer for failing to take the appropriate actions. They can also help you identify the appropriate evidence to bring and help you eventually bring your case to a resolution.

Contact the Zeff Law Firm if your employer fails to resolve your HR complaint

In some cases, a company’s HR department fails to resolve the issue, and the problem continues to persist. This can be especially problematic when the issue being raised violates the law, such as when an employee is being discriminated against or when someone is being harassed. Zeff Law Firm has years of experience working with employees whose HR complaints have been ignored or inadequately investigated. We strive to ensure that everyone has access to a safe, and nondiscriminatory workplace, and we proudly help employees challenge their employers when that is not the case. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help you!

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