My Role In A Meeting About Racist Remark Complaint

Question:

I have made a complaint to the AA coordinator about racist remarks by a coworker, and an investigation was initiated. Monday morning our clerical union rep, me, the person accused, and the Affirmative Action coordinator are meeting. I have approached the accused before about this and she consistently lies and denies, so I made a formal complaint.

My question to you is how should I prepare myself for the meeting, as in, what type of guidelines, questions I should ask, consequences I should recommend (management asked what I would like to happen) and how do defend myself when the accused may lie/deny everything I have heard her say?

Signed,

Wanting To Be Prepared


Answer:

Dear Wanting To Be Prepared:

Find out exactly what the purpose of this meeting is and what you can and cannot ask or say. This sounds like a mediation meeting not an investigative meeting. So, you would likely not have questions to ask, but rather statements to make about what you require from the coworker in the future.

If that is the case, you will also need to know what the limitations are on what you can ask and it would be good to know if the employee can be required to do what you ask, or if the company has to do what you ask.

It may be that the coworker can require something of you as well and will also have time to make a statement. That is something you want to know ahead of time.

If the person denies your accusations and you don’t have witnesses, all you can do is continue to state what you believe to be the truth. Again, ask your representative if you will be allowed to ask probing questions (“What exactly did you say to me at that point?” Or, will you only be able to state your truth and continue the meeting.

I want to be helpful, but I think your focus will likely have to be on statements rather than questions. And, you may have to settle for the other person simply saying she will not talk to you about anything but business and will not make statements that are disrespectful.

If you want to request some change in your own work hours, location or similar condition, to avoid being around this person, that may or may not be granted. But, it would be good to know ahead of time.

One thing is for sure…you want to demonstrate a high level of professionalism and a positive attempt to find a resolution to this that ensures not only will you be treated respectfully by this person, but that she will not be disrespectful to others either.

At the same time, if you will be working with her in the future, no matter what, a civil approach will at least prevent even more hostility.

I hope this is somewhat helpful. I think your AA rep and HR rep should be providing you with the detailed instructions you need to be prepared for this meeting, and I hope you will insist upon that help from them.

Best wishes. If you have the time and wish to do so, let us know what happens.

Tina Lewis Rowe