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Human Resource / Work Related Issue

A. How to Write a Complaint Letter to the Human Resources Department?

Today's employment market is full of challenges, especially if you are being treated unfairly or discriminated against at the workplace. If you think your employer is engaging in unfair employment practices, you can start the resolution process by writing a complaint letter to your company's human resources department or human resources manager. Although 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 human resources department) and for the recipient to 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.

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

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

What you regard as unfair may not necessarily be in violation of the law. Unfair treatment in the workplace may include ignoring the lack of promotion opportunities for qualified employees of a certain gender or race, or different amounts of 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 human resources 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 characterise your complaint. There are various types of complaints that you can make:

  1. Workplace harassment – sexual harassment, derogatory comments or slurs based on personal characteristics, violence and intimidation, threats and personal attacks, inappropriate remarks, offensive jokes, bullying, and abuse.
  2. Discrimination – discrimination based on gender, race, colour, religion, nationality, disability, age, genetic information, or family status.
  3. Unfair treatment – unfair pay or other treatment, withholding of compensation, failure to pay what has been promised in the employment 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 to get a timely response (preferably someone senior with the relevant authority). Addressing generally to the human resources department is not recommended as it often gets ignored. You should check your company's Employees Manual to see who should be the first port of complaint. Normally, it is a specific officer in the human resources department or your immediate supervisor. However, if that officer or supervisor happens to be the subject of your complaint, then you can consider complaining to his / her immediate supervisor instead.

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, i.e. that you are making a complaint on work-related issues. Then, you should explain that you want to file a complaint and indicate the substance of the complaint, including the subject(s) of the complaint.

C. 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 the human resources department can see that there is an issue that needs to be investigated. You should provide more details to increase your credibility by:

  • Stating clearly the date, location, and circumstances of each incident.
  • The persons involved and their relationships with you (e.g. your direct supervisor, colleagues, employees in other departments of the company, and any witnesses).
  • Summarising each incident and its details of what has happened.
  • Providing any solid evidence that you may have.
  • Have you tried to resolve this problem? Have you talked to your supervisor for help? - Writing down the date and the name of the person you spoke to and summarising the replies that you have received.
  • Sticking 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 that they can investigate effectively. You can provide more details and evidence upon request.

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, 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.

D. Request for Resolution

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

Thank the human resources department 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-mails, voice mails, notes, or witness statements. You may need to provide them to the human resources department later to support your case if an investigation commences.

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