An Employee Makes a Racial Discrimination Claim – Now What?

By Jenny Barnes on Aug 28, 2023
4 min read 1 Comment

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An Employee Makes a Racial Discrimination Claim

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) clearly spells out what constitutes racial discrimination in the workplace and says that employers must investigate and work to resolve claims of discrimination by employees and applicants.

When an employee makes a racial discrimination in the workplace claim, employers should not ignore, deny, minimize, criticize, take sides, threaten, demote, or fire the complaining employee, or make fun of the situation. They need to take immediate action not only because its the right thing to do, but also because generally, the complainant has 180 days from the time of the initial incident to file a claim with the EEOC. 

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Listen to the Racial Discrimination in the Workplace Complaint

It is illegal to discriminate in any aspect of employment, including in job ads, recruitment and hiring, job assignments and terms of employment, promotions, pay and benefits, training and employment policies such as dress code, and discipline and discharge. 

When an employee complains about racial discrimination in the workplace, it’s important to take the complaint seriously and understand it fully to know how to proceed. There are a lot of ways employers can make the situation worse, and this can cost both employers and employees.

Cornelia Gamlem, the author of several books on HR and business management, cautions employers to avoid behaviors that could be seen as retaliatory, including threatening or criticizing the employee for reporting workplace discrimination, firing, demoting, or disciplining the employee for reporting, or discussing the claim with anyone inside or outside the company other than those who need to know (those in human resources and legal). 

Other pitfalls include not taking the complaint personally, becoming defensive or feeling the need to discuss why what the employee experienced isn’t racial discrimination. Gamlem recommends listening seriously and considerately to the complaint without a rush to judgment or actions like discipline or dismissing the claim. 

Diversity in the Workplace 2020

Investigate the Workplace Discrimination Complaint

A timely and thorough investigation of the complaint is important to determine if corrective action is necessary and to be able to prevent the situation from happening again. It’s also a legal obligation under many laws such as Title VII and state and local anti-discrimination laws.

The EEOC recommends asking the employee to explain the racial discrimination in the workplace incident, meet with the manager(s) and other employees involved to ask about the situation and determine whether company policy was applied properly, fairly and legally. 

The Society for Human Resource Professionals (SHRM) says step one in investigating racial discrimination in the workplace complaints is ensuring confidentiality to the extent possible, explaining to the complainant that information will be shared on a need-to-know basis during the investigation.

Selecting the best investigator is important. This could be legal counsel, internal security, a third-party investigator, HR staff or an HR consulting organization like Axcet HR Solutions. SHRM suggests employers may choose a team of experienced investigators from two or more of these areas so that the investigating team will have both HR and employment law expertise. 

The investigation should include a documented plan of action, racial discrimination investigation questions as suggested by the EEOC, interviews with the complainant and witnesses, an evaluation of the information and evidence gathered and a final determination. 

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Resolve the Racial Discrimination in the Workplace Complaint

Upon final determination after the investigation, SHRM recommends that the racial discrimination in the workplace complainant and the accused should be notified of the results. There should be timely follow-up with the complainant so there is an understanding of the investigation process and the determination, ensuring that the employee who made the claim knows and agrees that the issue was taken seriously and appropriate action was taken. 

After the employee has been told the results, SHRM recommends further follow-up to see if the employee has other issues and is back to a secure and productive work environment and work routine. It’s important to encourage open communication and follow-up so that the employee feels comfortable at work. 

If corrective actions are necessary, they should be taken as soon as possible, including any damages to the victim that need to be remedied, any education or training needed to prevent the issue from happening again, a review of workplace policies and any other appropriate steps. The final part of resolving the complaint and closing the investigation is preparing a report. The report should include all documentation of the complaint, the investigation, the process, the resolution of the claim and actions taken. 

Many employment laws protect employees at work, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Family Medical Leave Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972 and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967.

Employee complaints of violations of any of these federal employment laws must be taken seriously and investigated fairly and appropriately to protect both employer and employee and to remedy any illegal activity. The first step when any complaint is received is to listen and thoroughly understand the claim and then take appropriate action. 

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Promoting Workplace Equality: Partner with Axcet HR Solutions

In the face of racial discrimination in the workplace claims, its essential for companies to take immediate and appropriate action to ensure a fair and inclusive work environment. Axcet HR Solutions, the trusted Kansas City-based PEO and HR outsourcing company, is here to support you every step of the way. 

Contact us todayto leverage our expertise in handling complex HR matters, including addressing discrimination claims, implementing diversity training and fostering a culture of respect. Together, we can create an inclusive workplace where everyone feels valued and respected. Choose Axcet HR Solutions for effective HR solutions that prioritize equality and diversity. 

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Written by Jenny Barnes

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