The tightened job market has led to increased pressure on both employees and employers to maximize potential in the workplace. It has been argued that his increased pressure has caused a generally more hostile work environment, with increased reports of improper conduct such as discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. An employee falling victim to improper conduct may be fearful of reporting the conduct or unsure of how to proceed. While it is always good practice to keep a journal or other written documentation of any incidents that occur, the first formal step for an employee is to file an internal or external complaint against his or her employer. Employees are often unaware of this right and it can serve as an important notice, beyond which the employer cannot deny their awareness of the complained of conduct. There are two primary types of complaints an employee can file: (1) internal, and (2) external.
Internal complaints typically are addressed to Human Resources or a similar department, if available, and if not, to a high level manager within the company. If possible, inquire with the person to whom you will be submitting the complaint for instructions on requirements and guidelines for written complaints. When writing the complaint, always state your concerns clearly and to the point. Do not use any abusive language and try and keep the complaint limited to the facts of the particular situation; stay away from emotionally charged language. And, always remember to mention what you have done to try to resolve the situation. Finally, state how you would prefer the problem to be resolved. Always keep a copy of any correspondences between you and your employer.
An external complaint would be any complaint an employee files outside of his or her employment. Various state and federal agencies exist to prevent workplace misconduct and each has its own complaint filing process. Under federal law, employees can file several different types of complaints against an abusive employment relationship/environment. The type of complaint that an employee files depends on the specific violation or cause of action. For example, employees can sue their employers for abusing the federal wage and hour laws, for violating the federal equal employment opportunity laws relating to various types of discrimination, or for violating the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act. A different federal agency enforces each of these laws and has its own filing guidelines. In addition to filing a complaint against an employer based on federal laws, employees may be able to contemporaneously file complaints with state agencies based on their states’ employment laws, which often offer additional protections beyond those found under federal law. If you think you have a claim against your employer for unfair employment practices, contact our attorneys for a free evaluation.