Tips - dealing with a complainant
Tips for dealing with a person who makes a complaint of discrimination or sexual harassment
Keep these factors in mind when assisting a person complaining about discrimination or sexual harassment. They:
- want the discrimination or sexual harassment to stop and for things to go back to normal;
- do not want to get a reputation as a trouble-maker;
- may fear retaliation in response to their complaint;
- may blame themselves;
- may be concerned about the loss of privacy if they pursue their complaint;
- may not want to lose control of the complaint;
- may feel they have no conclusive proof and will not be able to establish the truth;
- may only be interested in ensuring that the same thing won't happen to others;
- may be in distress, sometimes very serious distress;
- may not feel comfortable taking the complaint to the person assigned to the role;
- may have previously valued the friendship or support of the alleged discriminator/harasser and feel confused about the behaviour;
- may suggest that it is probably pointless to complain;
- may want someone to be with them in any discussions or interviews;
- may feel like leaving their job;
- may discuss 'putting up with' the problem;
- may be suffering stress related symptoms, either physical or psychological;
- may want disciplinary action taken against the person being complained about;
- may be uncertain about what they want to do;
- may want to learn how to deal directly with the discriminator/harasser.
- The complaint may have been building up over time and they may have been too afraid to discuss the situation.
Suggested questions to ask the person making the complaint
- When and where did the incident/s happen?
- Who did it?
- What was said and done?
- What did you do? Have you spoken with the person? What was their response? Have you said anything to them?
- Has this happened before? How did you deal with it then?
- How are you feeling about the person?
- What is your work relationship with the alleged discriminator/harasser?
- In what way is this discrimination/harassment affecting your work?
- Did anyone else observe or hear it?
- Have you told anyone else about what happened?
- Did you keep any notes about what was going on? (In your diary, for example)
- Do you know what your options are?
- Do you need a support person or a counsellor?
- Do you need some time off or other assistance?
- Did you know we have a company policy on discrimination and sexual harassment?
- What would you like to do about it? How can this situation be resolved right now?
- Do you want to make a formal complaint?
- What would you like me to do?
Adapted from: Eliminating Sexual Harassment from the Workplace - Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission 1993