Human Resource / Work Related Issue

How to Write a Complaint Letter to Human Resources (“HR”) Department?

Today's employment market is full of challenges, especially if you are being treated unfairly or discriminated at the workplace. If you think your employer is engaged in unfair employment practices, you can start the resolution process by writing a complaint letter to HR department. Even though employers are obliged to provide a fair work environment that provides equal opportunities for all employees, it is not easy to write a complaint letter to your employer without the fear of reprisal.

A well-written complaint letter is more likely to attract attention from the recipient (most likely the HR Department) and act on it. This guide is intended to help you to draft an appropriate complaint letter to increase the likelihood for your employer to do something to resolve the issue.


A. Review Laws, Company Policies and Procedures to Identify Your Rights


Employers are required to provide equal opportunities to employees regardless of age, color, nationality, race, religion or gender. You will need to take the time to study and understand labour and employment laws in your jurisdictions relating to discrimination and workplace harassment.


What you regard as unfair may not necessarily be illegal. Unfair treatment in the workplace may include ignoring the lack of promotion opportunities for qualified employees with a certain gender or race, or it may mean different pay for employees doing the same work.

Read the employee handbook and review the company's policies in addressing unfair practices in the workplace. Many employers have a process, and employees must follow this process to complain to the manager or the HR department. It is always better to write a complaint letter even if it is not required by the company’s policy.


From the laws, regulations and company policies, you need to identify your rights and characterize your complaint. There are various types of complaints that one could file:

  1. Workplace harassment – sexual harassment, derogatory comments or slurs based on personal characteristics, violence and intimidation, threats and personal attacks, inappropriate remarks and offensive jokes, bullying and abuse.

  2. Discrimination – discrimination based on gender, race, color, religion, nationality, disability, age or genetic information.

  3. Unfair Treatment – unfair paid or other treatment, withholding of compensation, failure to pay what was promised in the contract.


B. Identify Who You are Writing to


When writing a complaint letter, it is usually recommended that you send the letter to a specific person in order to get a quick response (preferably someone senior with the relevant authority). Addressing generally to the HR department is not recommended as it often gets ignored. You should check the Employees Manual to see who should be the first port of complaint. Normally it is a specific officer in the HR Department or your immediate supervisor. However, if he / she happens to be the subject of your complaint, then you can consider complaining to his / her immediate supervisor.


C. Introduce Yourself and Your Purpose


In a large company, you should first identify and introduce yourself by including your full name, position, department, date of employment, and the name of your direct supervisor. Even if you know the recipient well, you should set out the complaint letter formally and professionally like a normal business letter.


You should start by going straight to the issue, that you are making the complaint.  Explain that you want to file a complaint and indicate the substance of the complaint, including the subject(s) of the complaint.


D. Set out the Facts in Chronological Order

Set out the facts in chronological order and try to collate as much evidence as possible to support your complaint. Be clear and address the main points. You want to provide enough information so that HR can see that there is an issue that needs to be investigated. Provide more details to increase your credibility:

  • State clearly the date, location and circumstances of each incident.
  • People involved and their relationship with you (your direct supervisor, colleagues, employees in other departments of the company, etc., any witness).
  • Summary of each incident and details of what happened.
  • Any solid evidence you may have.
  • Have you tried to resolve this problem? Have you talked to your supervisor for help? Write down the date and name of the person you spoke to and summarise their replies you received.

Stick to the facts. You should not make any allegations that you cannot provide evidence on, such as an e-mail or a witness. Give the recipients enough information so they can investigate effectively. You can provide more details and evidence upon request.

E. Be Honest, Polite and Respectful

When you feel depressed and upset, it is difficult to control your anger. Just because someone may have used foul language on you, it does not justify you using the same language on others, especially if you are trying to seek assistance from your recipient. If you want your complaint to progress, you need to stay calm, be polite and courteous.


Base your case on the Company's values and philosophy, which you can usually quote from the Employees’ Manual. If you do not want to alienate your recipient, avoid using threatening, sarcastic or insulting language in your complaint. Never write anything that might reflect badly on you or get out of context. Foul language will only weaken your bargaining position and your ability to seek help.


F. Request for Resolution

Lastly, express your interest in reaching a resolution. The key is to inform the company of events it may not be aware of and support the company's investigation. You can (i) propose a solution, (ii) request directly for a response, or (iii) take action to resolve the issue. State what you want from HR, for example, a transfer to a different department. You can also ask HR to investigate and punish the person involved. Be reasonable on your request. A good test on the reasonableness is to put yourself in the shoes of the HR to see if what you are proposing makes sense.


Thank HR for taking the time to read your letter and investigate the matter. Remember to keep a copy of your complaint letter and all supporting documents, such as e-mail, voice mail, notes or witness statements. You may need to provide them to HR later to support your case if an investigation commences.