What Is a Grievance Letter?

A company’s human capital is its life force. More than impeccable management and operation systems, a company fails to deliver without competent and dedicated people. As a result, organizations invest in methods and techniques to ensure employee retention. A reliable manner of retaining employees is to boost their engagement. An employee engaged in the company means that they fully understand and share the vision of the organization. They are also the workers who willingly involve themselves in advancing the goals of the business. They can, therefore, grasp the significance of their role in accomplishing the vision.

But one cannot escape the natural order of equilibrium. As much as engaged employees work toward achieving the goals of the organization, complaints also rise to the occasion. Generally, grievances and objections bring good to an organization. It is an eye-opener that something is not right. When unfavorable and adverse situations happen, employees can file formal complaints in the form of grievance letters. It contains the details of the unfortunate situation, whether it involves harassment, discrimination, and any harmful and derogatory acts. Filing a grievance letter gatekeeps the entire process of resolving an issue.

When Should You File a Grievance Letter?

The Equal Employment Opportunity Committee (EEOC) keeps a detailed record of all the escalated grievance charges from different organizations. Its main goal is to enforce employee rights and to combat workplace discrimination. As of 2019, the EEOC received more than 70,000 charges for workplace discrimination. The number, alone, may seem alarming but it is actually at its lowest since 1997. The decreasing number of cases may mean two things. One, workplaces are becoming more accepting of differences. Two, there is confusion on when to file for a trial. The latter may be too pessimistic, but possible. To clear the air out, here are some of the circumstances of when you should call for help by writing a grievance letter.

When Treated Unfairly: Competition is a welcome factor in the workplace. It pushes employees to do better in what they do. But, it becomes a different story when it drives an individual to undermine another to prove that they are a better employee. If you encounter a similar situation, you can draft up a grievance letter and send it to your supervisor or human resource manager. You can also file a complaint if your supervisor exhibits apparent favoritism. An example of a supervisor’s bias is when they purposely assign a lighter workload to an equally capable coworker. It is also evident in promoting a less likely candidate. You can use your knowledge of your company’s policies in judging other similar situations before submitting a grievance letter.When Harassed: Unfair treatment also treads within the boundaries of harassment. When unreasonable behavior causes the employee to feel offended and humiliated, it becomes a case of workplace harassment. A vital factor in most harassment cases is that the harasser usually holds a position with innate power. It provides them a sense of invincibility. Harassment in the workplace also comes in different forms. It can be physical, sexual, and personal. Personal harassment, in other terms, is also bullying.When Discriminated: Harassments and unfair acts may also be discriminatory because of their motive. Basically, discrimination is the prejudicial treatment granted to other individuals based solely on their race, ethnicity, and gender. Even with the widespread and stronger call for inclusivity in schools and offices, discrimination is highly prevalent in work settings so much as it affects an employee’s opportunity for promotion, training, and job assignment. For employees who are part of the so-called minority groups, grievance letters help them in maintaining a safe space in the workplace.When Wrongfully Terminated: Employee attrition is part of a business’s natural cycle. Some employees choose to retire, and others resign to pursue other paths. Aside from personal reasons, termination is also a vital factor in calculating a company’s attrition rate. However, terminating an employee must have just causes. The organization must be able to present justifications for an employee’s termination. If not, the company is liable for the wrongful termination of an employee. If you experienced this circumstance, you can legally raise this concern and, hopefully, receive the monetary equivalent of the damages.When Imposed Questionable Policies: As soon as we enter a new organization, an orientation about their rules and policies is part of the onboarding process. These policies aim to maintain a conducive work environment. As part of the introduction, the supervisors or HR officers explain the objectives of these rules. But if a time comes when the management forcefully imposes unfavorable rules. The ones that they cannot justify or refuse to disclose, the employees have all the right to speak up against it.When Exposed to a Hostile Work Environment: Aside from an excellent compensation package, another reason why an employee stays in a company is its environment. We all have different preferences on how we work, and it is truly a gem to find an office that facilitates and supports our liking. So when someone or something disrupts the environment that fosters productivity, complaints are natural, even more so when the distraction brings in hostility. Hostile work environments dampen productivity and mess up focus. Employees who choose to be offensive and intimidating are other marks of a hostile environment. Ultimately, when discrimination, unfair treatment, unfair policies, and harassment are prevalent, it leads to a dangerous workplace.

Speak Up and Stand for Your Right

More often than not, victims of unfavorable situations refuse to speak up because of fear, especially when their complaint is against someone with a higher power. One way of encouraging them to speak up is by letting them know that they are not the only victims. And to make them understand that the only way to win is to speak up. The battle of workplace biases and unjust treatments has a long history. These are some of the landmark cases that prove that standing up against the attackers is most difficult only at the beginning.

Discrimination Against Ethnicity

The global leader in automobile manufacturing, Ford Motor Company, was in hot water last 2018 because of discriminatory charges from a former employee. A former industrial engineer for the company filed the case, stating that he was discriminated against for his Arab lineage and proficiency in English. Despite his expertise and experience in industrial engineering, his supervisor belittled him because of his race, something that he has no control over. The ex-employee won the case and, eventually, received a significant amount for the damages. This case spread like wildfire. Media outlets like the New York Post are one of the numerous others who took an interest in this case.

Workplace Sexual Harassment

Power plays a vital role in sexual harassment. There is always an evident power disparity between the harasser and the victim in most sexual harassment cases in the workplace. This gap is especially apparent in Gretchen Carlson’s lawsuit against the former CEO of her previous workplace. Carlson was an anchor of Fox News who stood her ground and went against her then-CEO, Roger Ailes. This scandal was so substantial it affected the operations and left a definitive mark on the company’s reputation. Gretchen Carlson won the lawsuit, garnering millions for settlement.

Unfair Policy and Discrimination Against Mothers

A much older, yet still significant case was regarding discrimination against mothers. This lawsuit was between the Martin Marietta Corporation and Ida Philipps, who was a mother to a young child. Philipps applied for a position in the company as was not accepted because of an unfair and discriminatory policy. The policy refuses to hire mothers with young children because they were said to be inefficient employees. This case became a landmark to all the following cases involving discrimination against sex, especially during the employment process. This particular case may come as a shock to some, but this specific discrimination is still present today—although it may not be as glaring as it was before.

How to Properly Relay Your Grievances

People love to complain. It is effortless for us to notice changes in our usual routines and complain about the things that make us change our ways. However, a simple verbal complaint is not enough to reverse the effects of a harmful or detrimental incident. A formal letter is necessary for starting a process to resolve these issues, especially in workplace settings. If you plan on writing one and have no idea how to compose a grievance letter, we present a short and effective process on how to write one.

Step 1: Introduce the Accurate Details of the Incident

Grievance letters implore a straightforward nature. When filing a complaint, there is no room for unnecessary details, which can make your narrative confusing. Once the formal introductions are done, lay down the facts of the case. It is best to start with when the incident happened, indicate both the time and date. If there were several incidents, report it chronologically. Or, in case you cannot pinpoint the exact date, use a significant occasion as a reference. Next, say where the incident happened. As much as possible, spill all the details: the part of the room or the office floor. Most importantly, disclose the names of everyone involved. In cases when you do not know the name, state their position or their main responsibility. It helps in tracking down the people responsible for the event. Emotions may flood you as you write your letter, but do not, in under any circumstance, twist the truth to gain more sympathy. It can only land you conflict with the law.

Step 2: Describe the Impact of the Events on You

After a careful and accurate recall of the details, back it up with the incident’s effect on your personal life and your performance in the workplace. Indicate whether you felt belittled, humiliated, or physically hurt. Be specific. It is also important to state how the harassment or unpleasant environment changed your performance. Make sure to highlight it in the letter. You can also indicate the results of your performance evaluation before the event and compare it with the results after. In this way, the management can be sure that you are not making up its effects. It also provides a clearer picture of how it affects the operations of the organization. Make sure to relay these pieces of information without being too emotional.

Step 3: Support with Substantial Evidence

Pieces of evidence can make a claim stronger. In the same way, prove the validity of your grievance case by presenting different forms of evidence. Narratives from witnesses can help your case, especially when it involves discrimination. Performance appraisals can also support your claim about questionable promotions and uneven distribution of workload. Pictures and surveillance camera footage can also help you further your case. However, you can also choose to keep the evidence and inform the other party that you have supporting documents.

Step 4: Suggest a Reasonable Solution, if Applicable

The goal of filing a grievance letter is to gain attention toward unpleasant incidents and to put an end to it. To help in the process of settling the conflict, you can include your preferred solution to the issue. Similar to presenting the facts of the case, be specific with the settlement that you want. You can choose to consult a legal counsel to evaluate the damages of the issue accurately, if applicable. While it is helpful to present your preferred solution, you must also consider the limitations of what the organization can offer. Be reasonable, but do not discredit your right to demand a favorable resolution.

Setbacks are natural factors in a person’s growth and development. But, it does not mean that we should not do something about it. Primarily when it blatantly attacks features of ourselves that we have no control over. Or, when it is apparent mistreatment and bias against us. This is why grievance letters are necessary for the workplace. It protects both our personal and professional growth.