Launch a Formal Complaint

Employees may need to consider initiating a formal complaint process after their attempts to raise issues and have them resolved through communication or other interventions are not successful. Employees are encouraged to contact AskMyHR or their supervisor for guidance if they are considering proceeding with a formal complaint.

AskMyHR can assist you to determine what legislation, HR policies or collective agreement provisions may apply in your situation. If you are part of the union, you may also want to speak to your steward or union representative. 

The roles within a formal complaint process are generally characterized in three ways:

  • Complainant - a person who alleges that they are a recipient of bullying, discrimination or inappropriate workplace behaviour
  • Respondent - a person alleged to have discriminated or acted inappropriately in the workplace against the complainant
  • Witness - an individual who has firsthand knowledge of an event and can testify that it took place

Initiating a Formal Complaint

Once you have initiated a formal complaint, you can expect to be asked to provide additional detailed information. This helps us address your situation appropriately. 

Information guidelines

  • What is your complaint about? Specify whether it is workplace bullying, discrimination, interpersonal conflict and difficulties, health and safety, Standards of Conduct or misuse of supervisory authority
  • What are the specific details of your complaint? If your complaint relates to a specific incident or incidents, it is useful to provide approximate dates, times and records of what was said and who was present as far as you can recall. Collect all relevant documents to support your complaint
  • Does your complaint involve another person or people at work? Think about whether there were any witnesses to any of the events
  • What has the impact been to you? What do you think would resolve your complaint?
  • Have you told your supervisor or anyone in your workplace or ministry about your complaint? If you are a bargaining unit employee, have you approached your union representative about the matter?

Rights & responsibilities

The employee who brings work issues to the attention of a supervisor or initiates a formal complaint has a right to

  • Be taken seriously
  • Have their resolution options heard and considered
  • Be kept informed throughout the process
  • Respond to the version of the events given by the respondent
  • Receive advice and representation from their union or other support person
  • Have their complaint subjected to independent and unbiased investigation and decision making
  • Be given access to counselling or other support services, where appropriate (such as confidential counselling)

An employee who is a respondent has the right to

  • An unbiased investigation
  • Be presumed innocent until proven otherwise
  • Be kept informed about the process
  • Be told about the details of the allegations made against them, including the identity of the complainant. However, this does not mean they are entitled to a written copy of the complaint
  • Respond to the allegations and have their side of the story heard
  • Receive advice and support from their union. Excluded employees can choose another supportive person, provided the person is not another employee in the same unit
  • Be given access to counselling or other support services

Questions that arise when considering formal complaint process

Can an investigation be conducted if the complainant isn't prepared to be named?

  • It is not fair or reasonable to ask someone to respond to allegations if they are anonymous. There will be no reprisal for employees who bring forward complaints in good faith

What happens if the complainant won't make a complaint?

  • You can't initiate a formal complaint for someone else, but you can act and report behaviour that you have observed and find inappropriate

Who makes the decision following an investigation?

  • A senior manager within the ministry (with advice from the BC Public Service Agency) makes these decisions

Does a copy of the investigation report go on my personnel file?

  • No. Copies of an investigation report are not filed on a personnel file. No copies of the investigation report are provided to the respondent or the complainant

How long does a typical investigation take?

  • Each investigation will be different and the time frame needed to complete a full and thorough investigation will vary. It is fair to say that it will depend on the complexity of the complaint, number of individuals involved, and related matters that may arise during the course of the investigation. Be assured that all efforts are made to complete an investigation as quickly as possible

What records and information about employees do investigators access beyond what is provided during interviews?

  • It depends on the nature of the complaint and what is discovered during the course of an investigation. In some cases, an investigator may access performance appraisals, corrective action noted on the personnel file, assessment of a pattern of complaints, IT records such as emails and Internet reports, written statements and other information that may be relevant to the issue

Can an employee provide information to an investigator confidentially ("off the record")?

  • No. All formal conversations are on record

What can I do if I am dissatisfied with the results of the investigation?

  • Included employees should seek advice from their union to follow the appropriate process set out in the relevant collective agreement. Excluded employees should have a discussion with the senior ministry decision maker up to and including the assistant deputy minister or deputy minister

What is the role of the investigator or employee relations specialist?

  • The investigator assists the ministry with the investigation. The employee relations specialist assists the ministry by providing advice on the outcomes of the investigation