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What is the last thing you want for your business? A lawsuit! In today’s litigious and uncertain business environment, companies are subject to more and more legal restrictions and obligations each year. With that being said, it’s very important to understand how to best handle employee complaints, grievances, or allegations of misconduct. How can you reduce the likelihood of potential costly lawsuits, industrial actions and an unhappy workplace? Here are the seven deadly mistakes employers most often make (and ways to avoid them).

1. Not having appropriate policies in place:

Implementing effective policies and procedures for dealing with harassment issues is critical. Employers should ensure that their policies and procedures are comprehensive and up-to-date. Also, make sure to regularly train managers and employees on these policies and procedures.

2. Not giving proper training:

Following allegations of discrimination or harassment, most employees have had no recent training or training handling these situations. As a result, managers let problems get out of hand. Even if you’re not legally required to do so, make sure to train all managers and supervisors (and, ideally, everyone) on the procedures of how to handle  specific harassment situations.

3. Confusing harassment with bullying:

 Most employers tend to confuse harassment with bullying. Bullying is an intentional act that causes harm to others. This can include verbal or nonverbal threats, taunts, physical attacks, blackmail, or manipulation. Harassment is defined as conduct which annoys, threatens, intimidates or causes fear in another person. It is unwanted behavior that often demeans or threatens another person.

4. Not taking complaints seriously:

Most managers and supervisors tend to not report a situation, take too long to report it or even prejudge the situation. By not addressing the situation immediately and thoroughly, it is much more difficult to demonstrate that the actions taken by the company (termination, disciplinary action, etc.) were justified. Also, if a complaint is not taken seriously, the employee’s personnel file won’t show recorded documentation detailing the problems.

5. Failing to properly investigate:

Managers and supervisors love to take shortcuts when it comes to these types of investigations. For instance, failing to understand and apply the principles of natural justice and procedural fairness; failing to plan an investigation methodically, or at all; and failing to engage a suitably qualified investigator. All investigations need to be taken seriously and handled with proper action.

6. Not implementing recommendations:

In any investigation, the essential phase is the implementation of the change stemming from the recommendations. It’s a common reoccurrence that many employers fail to implement. The results of any major report should serve to generate improvements to the workplace and implement strategies to support future scenarios.

7. Failing to communicate appropriately:

These situations can be very overwhelming for employers. It’s vitally important that employers do not have a quick response and jump straight into an investigation or legal action without first following the appropriate procedures. Be sure to seek advice and address potential problems early and quickly.

Workplace investigations can be a stressful undertaking for everyone involved. It is not only important to have a policy, but it is as equally as important to utilize and make all parties accountable based on each policy. Having these situations go wrong, you run the risk of creating a toxic dysfunctional workplace.  If you want more information on how to avoid these situations or need support or assistance, contact your DecisionHR human resources Business Partner at 1-888-828-5511.