How to Investigate Discrimination in the Workplace: 8 Best Practices

We all would like to believe that our work environments remain free of discrimination of all kinds. Most of the time, this is usually the case. However, individuals of varying professional titles will sometimes come across claims of workplace discrimination. This is a huge assertion that needs to be taken as seriously as possible.

To effectively investigate these particular claims, proper policies within the company that deal with this issue must be in place. These rules and guidelines, when followed, can ensure that all complaints are thoroughly investigated.

If you are unsure of where to start, follow these eight essential best practices on how to investigate discrimination in the workplace:

1. Recognize a discrimination complaint in the workplace.


In any kind of professional workplace investigation, the first step is to recognize a discrimination claim has been made. It is important to take this process as seriously as possible. This first entails making sure the person who made the claim is assured that every effort will be made to investigate the issue. As you investigate discrimination in the workplace, you have to ensure it goes through the appropriate processes.

This is where it is vital to have in-place, discrimination policies when these problems come to light. They will save you the trouble of having to figure out the subsequent steps yourself, while allowing you to become familiar with the initial steps. All claims of workplace discrimination have to be treated with an equal amount of respect prior to investigation.

2. Record all information about the workplace discrimination.

Once a claim has been made, you should meet with all requisite parties pertaining to the claim made. This first means that you initially meet privately with the individual who brought the issue to your attention, and record all relevant information. Record all parts of the conversation and transcribe them into written documentation, which will help you with the process of investigating discrimination in the workplace.

Furthermore, you will want to make sure that you have the specific individual review all statements made during the conversation. As a manager, it is your job to ensure that your workers have the utmost confidence in you. This entails making sure they know that the company does its best in practicing workplace impartiality.

3. Pick an appropriate workplace investigator.

Once the initial meeting discussing the discrimination claim has been completed, you should find a relevant investigator. The choice here is yours; it can be someone internally within the business or a third-party investigator. Either way, the person should be aware of how to investigate discrimination in the workplace.

It is probably in your best interest to hire an outside party to handle the discrimination claim. This allows the process to be objective, and ensure that everyone is treated as fairly as possible. An issue as serious as discrimination has to be approached with impartiality in mind; leaning too much to one side will only create further problems.

4. Get legal protection.

In addition to hiring the proper party to investigate the overall issue, you’ll also want to legally cover the process as well. This step is two-fold; the complaining worker will usually have to seek counsel in order to protect themselves. However, as a manager, you’ll want to make sure the company is legally safeguarded as well.

Discrimination policies in the workplace will, most of the time, advise all relevant parties of the legal steps to take. Getting legally protected on all fronts contributes to the objective nature of the claim process. However, you will want to ensure the complainant is informed of all their choices beforehand.

5. Speak to relevant witnesses in the workplace.

After the initial process has been received with clarity, the investigator should discuss the issue with applicable witnesses. All witnesses, whether directly mentioned by the complainant or not, should be spoken to.

Obtaining proof and evidence will help you investigate discrimination in the workplace. The more information that is gathered from other ancillary parties, the better the investigator’s judgment will be in coming to a decision.

6. Speak to the accused individual.


This is one of the most important parts of the investigation process. After gaining insight into the claim, the investigator should speak to the accused in question. This is to get their version of the transpired events, and to evaluate credibility of all other testimonies overall. In essence, the accused will receive a chance to respond to the accusations at this junction.

7. Review the discrimination claim in the workplace.

After a complete and thorough investigation has been made, the investigator should review everything. This usually involves meticulously analyzing all information recorded, as well as taking it up with you if you are the manager. After this is done, all relevant files should be contained within an applicable “investigation folder” for future use.

8. Take action and follow up.

If necessary, remedial action should be enacted if the complainant’s accusations turn out to be valid. This may vary on scale, depending on the severity of the discrimination, but should be punitive enough to prevent future discrimination of all kinds. Once the investigation is finished, and appropriate measures have been enacted, inform the employee of all resulting action.

Workplace discrimination can be a challenging subject to tackle. However, no matter how insignificant a claim may seem, it must be treated as seriously as possible. Follow the proper protocol, and the process will be as objective and fair as possible!

About Author

Justin is a journalism student from Ottawa, Canada. Since a young age, he has felt a passion for writing along with a knack for asking curious questions, which guided him into his current path today.