Can I Report Something I Didn’t Hear Directly?

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about racist talk:

In the UK, can a person complain about a racist comment, even if they did not hear it?

Signed, Concerned

Dear Concerned:

We aren’t experts about UK laws (or U.S. laws, for that matter!), but can tell you generally, that in both countries, an employee can report any rules violations of which he or she becomes aware. It’s then up to management or HR to decide if the complaint is valid or should be investigated. For example, if a coworker tells you that Jim, another coworker, made a very racist comment while in the workplace, you could report that to your supervisor, giving the name of the coworker who told you about it. The manager would then contact the first employee to find out more. You would have to give the name of the person hearing it and they–or at least someone who was present–would need to verify it and verify the context of the remark.

Keep in mind that the fact you were told something was said doesn’t make it true. If the person reporting it to you doesn’t want to talk to a manager about it, it is usually a good indicator that it didn’t happen exactly the way it was reported to you. Or, it could be that the person talking to you acted at the time as though he or she didn’t mind and doesn’t want to admit it. So, the final outcome may not be what you expect.

At least you will have passed the information along. If you want something to be done you will need to make it obvious that you are doing more than gossiping. Give the name of the reporting person and any witnesses you know were present and say that you were concerned about it. Treat it seriously if you want the supervisor to take it seriously.I hope this information is helpful to you. Best wishes!

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina Lewis Rowe

Tina had a thirty-three year career in law enforcement, serving with the Denver Police Department from 1969-1994 and was the Presidential United States Marshal for Colorado from 1994-2002. She provides training to law enforcement organizations and private sector groups and does conference presentations related to leadership, workplace communications and customized topics. Her style is inspirational with humor.