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Here's how to respond to an employee's grievance before it turns into a major dispute

by , 29 September 2014
Your employee, Sipho, lodges a workplace grievance against his superior. He alleges he makes racist statements about him in the presence of other employees.

He says this makes him feel uncomfortable and it's offensive.

If you're scratching your head and aren't sure how to respond to Sipho's grievance, here's what you can do so the complaint doesn't turn into a major dispute.

Respond to Sipho's grievance as follows

You need to take the complaint seriously and investigate if what Sipho is saying is true.

If it is, you need to take action against his superior.

You can, for example, put the grievance process on hold and issue a notice to Sipho's superior in terms of your disciplinary procedure, calling him to attend a hearing. The allegation would be that he's used racist language towards or has undermined the dignity of another employee.

Starting disciplinary proceedings might be enough to resolve Sipho's grievance. 

If Sipho feels this isn't enough because his dignity has been affected, you can ask his superior to issue a written apology. Another option is to send Sipho for counselling to help him overcome the stress and trauma of the event.

Remember, even though Sipho's superior is in the wrong, he's entitled to fair treatment in this process.

So why is it so important to respond to Sipho's grievance?

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Here's why it's crucial that you respond to Sipho's grievance promptly 

If you don't respond to Sipho's grievance he can:
  • Sue you for unfair discrimination because you let one of your managers racially harass him.
  • Claim damages from you under the Employment Equity Act.
  • Sue you in civil court for damages he suffers because of the affront to his dignity.
  • Resign and claim constructive dismissal.

As you can see, if you don't deal with grievances as they happen, they can grow into much bigger problems. So respond to Sipho's workplace grievance now that you know what to do.

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