Who Should Handle Employee Complaints?

A necessary part of running a business, whether it’s a large company or a small company, is handling complaints from your employees. These complaints can be relatively minor, such as someone wanting a different schedule or higher pay, or they can involve more severe issues such as harassment (sexual or otherwise) or discrimination (based on gender, sexual orientation, age, race, religion, or some other factor).

Part of deciding who should handle an employee complaint involves determining how severe the complaint is. If, for example, you are a department manager and your employee’s complaint is a minor issue that can be resolved within your department, it may be something you can handle yourself without directly involving your human resources department or your general manager.

That being said, if the complaint is a serious one (or if at any point you feel out of your depth when confronted with the possibility of handling the issue on your own) you should absolutely transfer the matter to your human resources (HR) department. They are trained to handle all forms of employee complaints and problems and will be able to decide the best course of action moving forward.

An effective human resources department will be able to objectively review the facts of the complaint without bias or prejudice and come to the best resolution for both the employee and the company. In more serious cases, an additional mediator may be called upon or higher management involved in the complaint review process in order to get the matter resolved as thoroughly as possible and with the best results possible.

Some serious complaints or issues that should be handled by an HR department include (but are not limited to):

  • Payroll disputes. If you or another employee believes that there might be something wrong with their paycheck, that is a matter that should be handed over to human resources immediately, since they are (in most companies, at least) responsible for all payroll matters. Additionally, if there are any issues regarding employee benefits, those are also an HR matter.
  • Harassment complaints. While a harassment complaint can sometimes be filed with whoever your supervisor or acting manager is (assuming, of course, that they are not the offending party), it’s often best to simply go directly to HR (especially if the harassment is sexual in nature or if you feel threatened by the perpetrator’s behavior). By going straight to HR, you won’t have to deal with any potential conflicts of interest on the part of the manager and you can rest assured that your complaint made it to the human resources department and will be investigated.
  • Workplace Discrimination. If discrimination of any sort is taking place, HR should be contacted immediately because such behavior is illegal and you should file a formal complaint. They will be able to investigate the validity of your claim and then respond accordingly.

Workplace injury or medical leave. Worker’s comp and paid medical leave are also matters handled by the human resources department, so if there is an employee who needs to discuss those matters it’s often best to forward them directly to HR.