Dealing with Diversity Complaints as an Organization


“There is nowhere you can go and only be with people who are like you.  Give it up.”

– Bernice Johnson Reagon


An organization must take specific actions once a diversity-related complaint has been filed. 

Receiving a Complaint

If your organization has a formal complaint form and the complaint consists of notes, transcribe them to the complaint form to make sure the information is complete.

Weighing the need for an Investigation

Based on the severity of the complaint, whether there is disagreement about the incident, and how any similar complaints were handled in the past, decide whether an investigation is warranted. If the issue is simple and straightforward, or easily resolvable, a full investigation may not be warranted. But if the charge is serious — or you sense there are other factors below the surface at play, an investigation is in order. You can identify one or more company employees to conduct the investigation, use a licensed investigation professional, or retain an attorney to conduct the investigation.

A company investigator should have some prior experience along with the ability to remain impartial and discreet. He or she should have higher ranking, if possible, than the complainant. Certain situations merit the use of an outside investigator.

Conduct an Investigation

You will want find out who complained, why, who is being accused of discrimination, whether any witnesses have been named, and what potential employment decision is being questioned. Follow the process below.

  • Map out the investigation
  • Assemble documents and other evidence
  • Plan and conduct interviews
  • Review and evaluate the evidence

Take Action

If you find that discrimination occurred, take corrective action. You want to a) end the discrimination and b) remedy the victim’s situation(s). Carefully evaluate the circumstances and consider corrective actions. The punitive actions should correspond to the level or severity of the infraction(s). And even if a solid conclusion cannot be made, preventive actions can be taken. 

Document the Investigation

Keep all notes and documentation of the findings. Write a short formal report explaining the decision along with the reasons. Keep a copy in the company’s confidential files; it should never go into an employee’s personnel file.

Follow Up

Contact the complainant on occasion to make sure that problem has stopped, that there has been no retaliation, and that the employee feels safe and comfortable. At your discretion, you may also wish to contact the accused employee as well to make sure things have returned to normal.

Learning from the Complaint

Regardless of the outcome of the complaint, if you found ethnic, racial, gender or disability practices, now is the time to make things better. 



All complaints must be taken seriously and dealt with in a professional manner. As a company you should be prepared with documentation, policies, and procedure to follow if a complaint is ever made.

Dr. Cherry

Cherry A. Collier, Ph.D. is an Organizational Psychologist, Strategist, Executive Coach, and Diversity, Inclusion, & Belonging Consultant for Personality Matters, Inc. Her science-based approach and brain-based techniques, propel people, teams, and organizations to build bridges and work from the inside out to achieve their goals. Dr. Cherry specializes in emotional intelligence, neuroscience, leadership development, and DEI Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. She received her Doctorate and Master of Science in Applied Social/Organizational Psychology from the University of Georgia and Graduated Magna Cum Laude from Spelman College. She is the author of more than twenty-five Human Behavior related books for leaders, executives, and coaches. Dr. Cherry is often called the DEI Whisperer because she has a unique ability to fiercely “hold the space” and be totally present which creates a psychologically safe environment that allows others all the space they need to fully express themselves. She listens to others with head, heart and hands approach so that they are heard, seen and understood.