HANDLING THE AFTERMATH: DISPENSING CORRECTIVE ACTION
With your investigation and integration of the findings complete, you may find yourself in the position of having to enforce your anti-discrimination policies through the dispensation of disciplinary and/or corrective action. If a discrimination complaint is validated through your investigative effort, you will certainly have to take swift action. Even if the complaint is unfounded, you will likely want to evaluate the circumstances that led to the complaint and craft a thoughtful response that may prevent the appearance of discrimination in the future.
A key objective of any investigation should include uncovering the root cause of the complaint. Doing so will allow you to understand whether or not the issue under investigation was unique or representative of larger systemic problems. Discovering the root cause is essential to properly managing the aftermath of the investigation. Precisely how to proceed should be dictated by your company policy in the event that a complaint of discrimination is supported by the investigative findings. In any case, you will likely need to consider both individual- and organizational-level actions in response to the complaint.
On the individual level, you can change the employment status of the accused employee. Depending on the severity and pervasiveness of the behavior and the perpetrating employee’s personnel history, there are a variety of disciplinary decisions that may be made, including the following:
- Verbal and/or written reprimand/warning
- Job/location reassignment
Also for the individual, you can implement corrective measures. You may consider mandating that the perpetrating employee’s continued employment be contingent upon successful completion of any number of corrective measures, such as:
- Individual training/coaching
- Ongoing behavior monitoring (in the workplace)
Finally, you can use restorative or retributive measures. In addition to issuing consequences to the perpetrator, you may consider offering some retribution to the victim. Doing so can help to further solidify the organization’s commitment to ensuring a safe, discrimination-free environment. Some such measures include the following:
- Issuing an apology
- Restoring any leave the victim took as a result of the offending behavior
- Redacting any negative feedback from the victim’s personnel records that were related to the offending behavior
On the organizational level, it can be a good idea to evaluate the effectiveness of your existing reporting channels. Do members of management and human resources all have effective “open door” policies? Is there a mechanism for anonymous reporting? Are all employees made aware of these reporting channels?
In addition, you should conduct regular anti-discrimination training across your entire workforce. Training in the aftermath of a substantiated complaint of discrimination must not be a perfunctory, off-the-shelf, lunchtime event. Instead, an engaging, deep-dive, behavior-focused training workshop can help employees at all levels better understand the organization’s policies, how to recognize potential violations, and the methods for reporting suspicions. Courts and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission expect annual anti-discrimination training, as a bare minimum, but in the face of an allegation of discrimination, this training should be revamped and focused.
Finally, make managers aware of their special responsibilities (e.g., the duty to report known or suspected incidents of discrimination) and empower them to meet these responsibilities. Remember that claiming ignorance of the discriminatory behavior is not an acceptable defense if the court determines that management should have reasonably known. Furthermore, expect managers to set the example for appropriate workplace behavior and hold them accountable.
Regardless of the particular actions you decide to take in response to substantiated claims of discrimination, you must be prepared to take prompt action that is proportional to the severity of the offending behavior. These are not easy decisions to make, but doing so is essential to ensuring the legal protection of your organization. In addition, making these tough decisions will help to establish your credibility as an organization that truly takes such complaints seriously and acts in accordance with its guiding values.
Contact Natalie Lynch if you need investigative guidance concerning complaints of employment discrimination.
Cite this article as:
Lee, L. M. (2016). Handling the aftermath: Dispensing corrective action. Retrieved from: http://lynchsc.com/insights/discrimination-complaints/dispensing-corrective-action/