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If an employee lodges a complaint of racism... You have to take it seriously. Otherwise you're guilty of unfair discrimination!

by , 23 March 2017
Now, I know you know you can't discriminate unfairly against any employee in the workplace. But what happens if one employee discriminates against another because of race?

What are your duties when it comes to this?

I'll tell you in a moment, let's first look at what racism is...

What is racism?
 
Racism is a form of unfair discrimination and includes:
  • Race;
  • Ethnic or social origin;
  • Colour;
  • Culture; and
  • Language (Section 6 of the Employment Equity Act).
 
So now you know what racism is… Let's look at what you need to do if an employee lodges a grievance…

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Follow this process if an employee lodges a grievance against racism:
 
Step #1: Encourage your employees to lodge a complaint
Racism and unfair discrimination complaints are very sensitive. The person who lodges the complaint loses face by telling you about the situation. You must handle subtle forms of racism with extra care. The offender can say he didn't mean to be racist. This could leave the victim feeling disillusioned and angry. It's important to let the offender know how hurtful the comments are and how it infringes on a fellow employee's dignity. 
 
Step #2: Investigate the complaint
Racism attacks a person's dignity. Someone who doesn't have the skills to facilitate the discussion will dismiss the matter as being a 'storm in a teacup'. This could be because there's no direct evidence of an extreme racist remark. The victim will feel like you didn't deal with the matter properly. 
 
Once you have investigated the matter, it's important to call both parties in and have a discussion around the issue. Once again, your training around good mediation skills will be vital as to whether you resolve the issue or not.
 
Step #3: Hold a hearing
Hold a hearing with both parties present. Listen carefully to what both parties have to say. This will enable you to take the cue as to what will resolve the matter. 
 
Step #4: Find a solution
The traditional way to resolve racism is to discipline an employee. This can drive racism underground and divide employees instead of addressing it and turning it around. But, some incidents of racism are so extreme that you'll have no choice, but to discipline or dismiss the offender. 
 
So now you know what you have to do, don't get caught out being guilty of not taking an employee's complaint seriously.

 

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