Overt racial discrimination, such as a racial slur or derogatory comment, can be easy to spot. However, the difficulty for investigators arises where an allegation of race-based discrimination seemingly does not relate to race at all. As discussed further in this post, such forms of discrimination (often dubbed “microaggressions”) are often manifested through subtle, unintentional behaviours that perpetuate stereotypes about marginalized groups.
The question then arises: how can allegations of subtle racial discrimination be investigated, let alone proven, where there is no obvious link to race? In the case study below, we outline considerations for investigators through the following scenario.
Employers sometimes ask us for guidance on how to share the results of a workplace investigation with the parties. It’s not difficult to imagine why.
All parties to an investigation—so long as they are employees of the employer—are entitled to learn the results of the investigation, as noted in the Ministry of Labour’s Code of Practice.
Yet letting a Complainant know that his harassment complaint was not substantiated, or telling a Respondent that he engaged in bullying, is difficult information to deliver. Information like this can be physically and emotionally overwhelming for the parties to hear, and both may experience a variety of emotions in response.
We know that workplace investigations can be disorienting experiences for the employees involved in them. Even a well-planned investigation can leave employees confused, at best, or deeply hurt and resentful toward one another or their employer, at worst.
Most of us approach our work with the intention of doing our best. We strive to ensure that the quality of our work meets the standards that we have set for ourselves as well as those established by our employer and the clients or customers we serve. Whether or not this objective is realized depends on a combination of factors that relate to our individual strengths and the particular conditions of our work environment.