complaint, Verbal Complaint

Why should I formally write up complaints?

Navigating complaints in a workplace is always a difficult thing to do, no matter who they are about. It may be easier, at times, to make the complaint informally or within a larger conversation about something else. That way, the complaint isn’t registered anywhere, and if it doesn’t go over well, you don’t have to deal with a formal process. Or, sometimes, it may feel like a verbal complaint that has not been recorded may be enough to constitute a formal complaint.


However, there is a benefit to recording when complaints happen, who they are made by, and what the complaint consists of. That way, if the complaint is ever taken further, or if you need to prove that it happened, you will have physical evidence.


Why a Formal Complaint Trumps a Verbal Complaint


While it can be an attractive option to make a verbal complaint to either your HR department if you are an employee, or to an employee if you are an employer, it is important to note that you may need evidence of that complaint down the line. 


Putting your complaint in writing will allow you to show it to someone who might ask down the line, if they are having a similar problem, or if you have been asked to demonstrate that there was an issue with someone. It can be very easy to argue the contents of a complaint, or even that one was never made, if the complaint is only hearsay. 


If you start a legal action that has to do with a complaint that you made, it can be much more difficult to present a verbal complaint as evidence, even if you remember when it happened and what you said.


Making a Complaint as an Employee


As an employee, it is extra important to make sure that you are making your complaints formally. If something needs to be done about your complaint, you will be at a disadvantage as a single employee, rather than a company with resources and an HR department. 


If you have a problem that is worth visiting HR about, make sure you specify that you are making a formal complaint, and ask for it to be written down and added to a file. You may not need to address the complaint later, if it is dealt with within your company, but if you do end up needing to reference it later, you will be grateful that you have proof of it.


As well, submitting a formal complaint will let your company know that this is an issue that you are serious about. They may be more willing to take immediate steps and offer you resources that you weren’t already aware of, such as a medical or mental health leave, government benefits, or other accommodations. 


Some common issues that employees may bring to their HR department might include:

  • A toxic work environment
  • Discrimination from other employees or supervisors
  • Harassment (including sexual harassment) 
  • Illegal or underhanded conduct committed by another employee
  • Micromanaging from supervisors
  • A lack of supports or resources for an issue
  • Inadequate pay
  • Bullying from other employees or supervisors
  • Disagreements between co workers
  • An inadequate workspace
  • And more


If you have experienced any of these issues in your workplace, consider speaking to your HR department about making a formal complaint.


Making a Complaint as an Employer


While it may feel to employees like employers have all the power in a workplace, that might not always be the case. When it comes to problematic employees, it can be very tricky to navigate how to deal with them in a way that protects your workplace and keeps everyone happy.


If you have significant problems with an employee and you decide to address them, make sure you write down when they happened and what was said. While a verbal warning has a chance of correcting the behaviour, you may have continued issues, and having a log of when complaints were made against that employee, or when you gave that employee a warning, could help you in the future.


Terminating an employee with cause can be a difficult thing to do, but in the case of problematic employees, it may mean you can terminate them right away without having to pay them severance. Keeping a log of what was said to that employee, when the issues occurred, and what the issues were can show that you attempted to fix the situation. It can also show that the problem was significant enough to warrant a dismissal with cause.




When it comes to complaints, it is always a good idea to make sure that they are submitted formally, logged and dated. It is hard to know when a problem will occur again, or when you might need to prove that it happened at all, and written documentation can help you do just that.


If you have questions about how you should be navigating formal complaints, or if you have had a reason to make complaints in the past and would like to have the issue addressed, make sure to reach out to the qualified team at Achkar Law for help. 


Contact Us


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. 


If you are a small or medium-sized company looking for full-service support with a same-day response, visit our Chief Legal Officer Program page for our strategic solutions.