Complaints: Why Formal Documentation Matters

The Complaint Process: Why Formal Documentation Matters

Addressing workplace complaints can be a challenging task, regardless of who they involve. Sometimes, it may seem simpler to voice your concerns informally or during a casual conversation. This way, the complaint remains undocumented, and if things do not go well, you can avoid a formal process. Or, you might feel that a verbal complaint, left unrecorded, suffices as a formal complaint.

However, there is an advantage to documenting when complaints occur, who raised them, and their specifics. This documentation serves as valuable evidence if the complaint needs to be taken further or if you must prove its occurrence.

Why a Written Complaint Holds More Weight than Verbal Ones

While making a verbal complaint to your HR department (if you are an employee) or an employee (if you are an employer) might seem like an appealing option, it is essential to understand that you might require evidence of the complaint in the future.

Putting your complaint in writing allows you to provide it as evidence if someone asks about it later, especially if they face a similar issue or need proof of the problem’s existence. It is relatively easy to dispute the contents of a complaint or even claim it was never made if it is only conveyed verbally.

If you initiate a legal action related to a complaint you filed, presenting a verbal complaint as evidence can be challenging, even if you remember when it occurred and what you said.

Making a Complaint as an Employee

For employees, it is crucial to ensure that your complaints are formalized. Should your complaint require action, you may be at a disadvantage as a single employee compared to a company with resources and an HR department.

When you have a complaint worth bringing to HR, specify that you are making a formal complaint and request it to be documented and added to a file. While you may not need to refer to the complaint later if it is resolved internally, having proof can be invaluable if you do need to revisit it.

Submitting a formal complaint informs your company that you are serious about the issue. They may be more willing to take immediate steps and offer resources you may not have been aware of, such as medical or mental health leave, government benefits, or accommodations.

Common issues employees might bring to their HR department include a toxic work environment, discrimination, harassment (including sexual harassment), illegal conduct by another employee, micromanagement, lack of support or resources, inadequate pay, bullying, disputes between co-workers, an inadequate workspace, and more.

If you have faced any of these issues, consider reaching out to your HR department to make a formal complaint.

Making a Complaint as an Employer

While employees may perceive employers as having all the power in the workplace, that is not always the case. When dealing with problematic employees, it can be challenging to handle the situation in a way that protects your workplace and maintains a positive atmosphere.

If you encounter significant issues with an employee and decide to address them, it is essential to document when the incidents occurred and what was said. While a verbal warning may correct the behavior, ongoing problems could arise, and maintaining a record of complaints against that employee or warnings provided may prove valuable in the future.

Terminating an employee with cause can be a complex decision, especially in the case of problematic employees. However, having a record of when complaints were made or warnings were issued can demonstrate that you tried to address the situation. It can also show that the issues were severe enough to warrant dismissal with cause.

What Should Be Included in a Written Complaint

When you decide to submit a formal complaint, whether you are an employee raising concerns or an employer addressing workplace issues, it is essential to ensure your written complaint is comprehensive and effective. Here are key components to include in your written complaint:

Clear and Detailed Description: Begin by clearly and concisely outlining the issue you want to address. Provide a detailed account of the incident or problem, including dates, times, locations, and individuals involved. Use specific examples and facts to support your complaint.

Your Perspective: Express your own perspective and feelings regarding the issue. Explain how the problem has affected you, your work, or the work environment. Be honest and straightforward about your concerns.

Relevant Documentation: If you have any supporting documents, include them with your complaint. This may include emails, messages, memos, or other evidence related to the issue. These documents can strengthen your case.

Impact and Consequences: Describe the impact of the issue on you or your workplace. Explain the negative consequences, whether they are personal, professional, or organizational. Articulate how the problem deviates from established workplace standards, policies, or laws.

Desired Outcome: Clearly state what resolution you seek. Whether it is addressing the issue, seeking changes, or requesting specific actions, your desired outcome should be realistic and aligned with the problem described.

Professional Tone: Maintain a professional and respectful tone throughout your complaint. Avoid using offensive language or making personal attacks. Stick to the facts and the issue at hand.

Address the Appropriate Recipient: Ensure your complaint is directed to the appropriate individual, such as your HR department or supervisor. Include their name and title if possible.

Request for Action: Clearly state that you expect a timely and appropriate response or action regarding your complaint. Set a reasonable deadline for a response or resolution.

Contact Information: Provide your full contact information, including your name, employee ID (if applicable), phone number, email address, and physical address. This allows the recipient to reach you for further clarification or updates.

Signature: Conclude your complaint letter with your signature, showing your commitment to the concerns you have raised.

By including these elements in your written complaint, you increase the chances of your concerns being taken seriously and addressed effectively. Effective communication is the first step toward resolving workplace issues and maintaining a healthy work environment.

In Summary

When it comes to complaints, formal documentation is key. Keeping a record of your complaints, complete with dates and details, is vital. You never know when an issue might resurface or when you will need to prove its occurrence. Written documentation ensures you’re prepared for such scenarios.

Contact Achkar Law

If you are an employee or an employer with questions about formal complaints, our team of experienced human rights lawyers at Achkar Law can help.

Contact us by phone toll-free at 1 (800) 771-7882 or email us at [email protected], and we will be happy to assist. 

Thinking of Making a Complaint Against Your Employer? Consult with Achkar Law

If you are contemplating filing a complaint against your employer and need guidance on the best course of action, Achkar Law can assist. Our experienced lawyers offer confidential consultations to help you understand your rights and options. We provide the support you need to navigate this challenging situation with confidence and ensure your rights are protected.