How Do I File A Discrimination Complaint?


I am a Native American woman and on a daily basis I have interactions with a co-worker who is black.

On several occasions she has made rude and insulting comments about my heritage and my Native Amerian faith.

What would be the best way to place a formal complaint to my employer and to the state?


Upset and Wondering


DearĀ Upset and Wondering:

Thank you for sharing your concerns with us. In a situation like this, talk to your employer–or the HR section for your employer–first. The purpose of going to governmental agencies is to find a resolution when your employer has not done so. Put your complaint in writing. You may want to start it by saying that you enjoy your job and want to ensure that the work environment is good for everyone. Then, you can state the general problem that has concerned you. After that, list the approximate dates, or general time frame of each event, and what was said or done. Also note what you did about it at the time. For example, if you indicated you did not like the remark, or if you frowned and left the room, or whatever. You are not required to react at the time, but it does help to show that your co-worker was aware you did not like the remarks. Sometimes employees joke back and forth and get so caught up in the joking they don’t realize they have stepped over a line.

State anything else about each event that would help explain it to others. List witnesses, or describe the facial expression or other behaviors, of the person making the remark.

It may also be useful to state what your interactions are like otherwise. If you get along otherwise, that is good to know. If you have ongoing conflicts that is also worthwhile to note. It is also a good way for you to evaluate the totality of the situation.

In your memo say that you would like to have the matter investigated and are available to discuss it at any time. That makes it clear that you DO want something done–if only making sure your co-worker stops the remarks.

Take or send your memo to your immediate supervisor. You may want to verbally reiterate that your primary purpose is to have an effective workplace. Then, wait for a response. If, after about a week, you haven’t heard anything, ask again. If there still is no action, THEN you can go to government resources. The federal Office of Equal Employment Opportunities, listed in the yellow pages, would be the best place to check.

I’m betting though that you will find your organization to be very concerned if another employee has said or done anything inappropriate concerning your ethnic background or any aspect of it.

What you will want to be careful about is to make sure you are not seen as using this issue to create problems for someone you don’t like, merely for that reason. Have your facts straight and write each allegation clearly. Show yourself to be logical and reasonable, but firm, about the things that have happened.

If your email address is an indication of your employer, you should have ample support and assistance for any complaints you make that can be verified. If you feel you are not getting that support, ask to talk to a supervisor about how the matter is perceived by others. That may lead to a resolution as well.

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

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.