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Considering an employee hotline, but worried about anonymous complaints

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Law,Human Resources

Q. We don’t have a hotline for employees to call to complain about harassment, discrimination or retaliation. We have been considering one, but we are concerned about anonymous complaints. Should we set up one anyway?

A. Yes. The Illinois Department of Human Rights reported 12,025 sexual harassment charges in 2006. With such a high number of claims, employers are always safer if they provide employees with another outlet to report misconduct.

One court even noted that the expense of a hotline was minimal compared to the cost of defending a claim. Also, the trend in EEOC settlements over the past years has included mandatory hotlines to be set up as part of the resolution. You can either set up an internal hotline or outsource the function.

Even if employees leave anonymous messages, it’s always best to know what is going on in the workplace so you can investigate it. Often, a hotline complaint is just the tip of the iceberg—and your prompt and effective response could limit liability.

Make sure you frequently distribute your anti-harassment policy and that it includes a “no retaliation” clause. Employees often leave anonymous calls because they fear reprisals for making claims.

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