Recap: Adams Keegan Live Webinar | Guide to Employee Grievances, Investigations & Resolutions
April’s live webinar featured a discussion on how companies can best address team member concerns and grievances, plus closer guidance on investigation best practices.
Adams Keegan’s Charles Rodriguez, Brandon Roland, and Marty Barton discussed how employees can and typically do address their concerns at work; employer policy, process, and training responsibilities; the fact-finding process; managing privacy issues; and balancing outcomes.
Boilerplate isn’t your friend
When it comes to crafting formal policies, you don’t want to fall prey to overly-broad or restrictive language and expectations. The avenues for raising a concern should not be onerous.
Consider this example: If part of your grievance policy is that a team member must have an informal conversation with their supervisor before they can either raise the issue higher or formally complain in writing, what happens when the supervisor is the one being complained about? Alternatively, how is the complaints procedure honored if the team member personally feels more comfortable going to someone else instead, thus involving a third person?
Your goal is to achieve prompt, remedial action, along with safety for everyone involved, protection of retaliation for the person raising the concern, and having extensive documentation of the issue at hand.
Keep things in perspective
Note that most concerns are not legal issues, they’re interpersonal issues. If you have a tip line, for example, you’re going to collect anything and everything from the temperature of the coffee pot to a person’s tone of voice in a conversation. Whatever the case is, you want to have clear and actionable steps, which we refer to as the “grievance life cycle”:
- Acknowledgement of the concern, complaint or issue
- Fact-finding or information gathering, which reinforces confidence in the decisions made
- An investigation: Determine a purpose, identify a violation, and decide on disciplinary action if any
Employees need to know where they can go to address a concern
Team members don’t like raising issues any more than you enjoy hearing them. But it’s critical that processes and procedures for addressing complaints and concerns are straightforward and accessible. This starts with a robust compliance infrastructure, including regularly updated handbooks, open access to complaints, and clear internal procedures among other things.
Employees also need to know what their choices are when it comes to raising a complaint, including the email inbox, HR department, supervisors, managers, and even senior management and board members. Best practice involves allowing employees to go to any superior they feel comfortable with, and managers should never appear to be frustrated or upset with an employee based on where they chose to go to complain.