How to Write a Complaint Letter to Human Resources

Four Parts:Crafting Your LetterTailoring Your Letter to the SituationDeciding If a Letter Is the Best Course of ActionSample Complaint Letters

Workplace conflicts are a fact of life. Sometimes they can be resolved by the parties involved in the conflict, but other times a formal complaint is necessary. Before writing a complaint letter the your human resources (HR) department, make sure your complaint warrants such an action. If it does, the steps that HR will take to remedy the situation will often depend on how professionally and appropriately you write your complaint letter.

Part 1
Crafting Your Letter

  1. Image titled Write a Complaint Letter to Human Resources Step 1
    Review your company's policy for filing a complaint. All companies have different policies, so it's best to look at your manual to determine who you need to send the letter to and what format it needs to be in.
    • Some companies have special forms that you need to fill out in order to submit a complaint.
  2. Image titled Write a Complaint Letter to Human Resources Step 2
    Be as specific as possible. In order to write an effective letter, you must be concise and stick to the facts. Be sure to fully explain the reason for your complaint in as much detail as you can.[1]
    • Avoid using vague or subjective terms like "jerk" or "unfair." Instead, explain the specific actions that make you think this way. For example, instead of saying, "Jane is nicer to other employees than she is to me," consider saying something like, "Jane has rejected all of my requests for vacation this year, but has approved requests made by everyone else in the department."
    • If you believe you are being subjected to a specific type of discrimination or harassment, use this language and describe exactly how you are being discriminated against or harassed.
    • Do not get off topic and begin complaining about unrelated issues. If you start bringing up petty grievances, it may diminish the effect of your entire letter.
  3. Image titled Write a Complaint Letter to Human Resources Step 3
    Include examples and evidence. In addition to explaining the nature of your complaint in detail, you should also back up your claim with as much evidence as possible. If you have proof of the conduct that you are complaining about, include it. If you do not have proof, include as many specific examples of the conduct as you can.[2]
    • When detailing specific examples of the behavior you are complaining about, include the dates on which the incidents occurred. For example, if you are complaining about a coworker threatening, you may say something like, "On Friday, April 8, John told me, 'If you don't get this done in the next five minutes, I'll smash your face in.'"
    • If you have physical evidence of the behavior, such as an email, include it with you letter. If you have evidence that cannot be included with a letter, such as a voicemail, let the HR representative know that it exists.
  4. Image titled Write a Complaint Letter to Human Resources Step 4
    State the outcome you expect. Once you have finished explaining the reason for your complaint, you should let the HR representative know what you expect them to do about the incident. If there are specific consequences listed in the employee handbook, you may use these a reference.[3]
    • The outcome you request should be reasonable and related to your complaint. For example, if you are complaining because there is a leaky ceiling in the office, you might say something like, "I would like you to send someone to repair the ceiling as soon as possible."
    • Depending on the specific incident you are reporting, you may or may not have a specific outcome in mind. If you don't, it's fine to simply state that you would like HR to look into the incident and address it accordingly. You may also choose to request a meeting with the HR representative and/or the person you are complaining about to discuss the incident.
  5. Image titled Write a Complaint Letter to Human Resources Step 5
    Keep it positive. It's best to avoid confrontational language when writing your complaint letter, even if you are very upset. Being cordial will increase your chances of getting an appropriate response from the HR department.[4]
    • Be polite by using words like "please" and "thank you."
    • Don't use profanity or insults of any kind.
    • Even if you feel like venting in your letter, control yourself and find a nicer way of expressing yourself. For example, if you want to say, "Bob is a terrible boss and the company is stupid for hiring him," consider saying something like, "While I have great respect for Bob, I feel that management should review his efficacy as a leader."
  6. Image titled Write a Complaint Letter to Human Resources Step 6
    Include the necessary information. Whenever you write a letter, it's a good idea to stick to a professional format. This not only makes your letter look more serious, but it also ensures that the reader will have your contact information.[5]
    • Your name and contact information, as well as the date, should appear in the upper right-hand corner of the letter.
    • The recipient's name and address should appear on the left side of the page, above the main body of the letter, but below the date.
    • Address the letter by name if you know exactly who you are sending it to. If you are not sure who will be reading the letter, address it to a generic title like "HR Representative."
    • Sign your letter at the bottom and include a salutation such as "Sincerely" or "Best."
    • If you HR department does not know who you are, include information about your job title, department, and office location in the beginning of your letter. You may need to include information about the person you are complaining about as well.
    • A typed letter is much more presentable than a hand-written one.
  7. Image titled Write a Complaint Letter to Human Resources Step 7
    Consider seeking legal counsel. Depending on the nature of your complaint, it may be a good idea to consult with a lawyer who specializes in employment issues before you send your letter. If you do, be sure to mention in your letter that you have legal representation. This will let the HR representative know that you are serious about pursuing the issue.[6]
    • Your lawyer can also advise you about what you should and should not include in your letter, so be sure to show it to him before you send it.
  8. Image titled Write a Complaint Letter to Human Resources Step 8
    Submit it by email if possible. When you send your letter by email, you will automatically have proof that you sent it. If the HR representatives fail to respond to your letter and you need to take your complaint to a higher level, this can be very useful.[7]
    • If you send it from a work email address, it's a good idea to send a copy to your personal email address, just in case you are terminated and need evidence of the complaint.
    • If you can't email your letter, consider either sending it by Certified Mail or emailing the HR representative to confirm that your letter was received.

Part 2
Tailoring Your Letter to the Situation

  1. Image titled Write a Complaint Letter to Human Resources Step 9
    Complain about your boss. Complaining about your boss is probably one of the most delicate issues you can encounter at the workplace. Be absolutely sure that you have a sound reason for complaining about your boss and that you are willing to deal with the potential consequences of filing a complaint before you do so.[8]
    • When writing your letter, try to make sure that it doesn't sound like you are complaining about your boss because he makes you do your job or holds you to high standards. For example, if you boss threatens employees to meet deadlines, consider saying, "Jill has been using inappropriate language and making her employees feel unsafe," instead of "Jill always yells at us when we don't get our work done."
    • Think carefully about what outcome you expect from this kind of letter. If the offense is not likely to get your boss fired, you might consider asking HR to move you to another team, for example.
  2. Image titled Write a Complaint Letter to Human Resources Step 10
    Complain about another employee. While you should not write a complaint letter to HR to resolve a petty dispute with a coworker, there are certain circumstances under which you may have to formally complain about someone. If a fellow employee is behaving in a way that is unsafe, inappropriate, or destructive to the work environment, you should not hesitate to file a complaint.[9]
    • Consider reporting the problem to the employee's boss before writing a complaint letter to HR.
    • Provide as much proof as you can about the employee's conduct. If you don't have any evidence, be sure to keep a log of incidents and include this with your letter.
    • If you are complaining about a subordinate, be sure to include documentation of the various disciplinary measures you have already taken to try to resolve the issue.
  3. Image titled Write a Complaint Letter to Human Resources Step 11
    Complain about an unsafe work condition. If you notice any kind of hazard in your workplace that has the potential to cause harm to you or your coworkers, you should report the condition. Depending on the structure of your company, it may be best to go straight to HR, or it may be more appropriate to report the condition to another employee first.[10]
    • If it is possible that the company is unaware of the safety hazard, it is important that you notify them in writing as soon as possible.
    • If you previously reported the incident, include relevant information about this in your letter, including when you reported it, who you reported it to, and what their response was. For example, you might write, "I first became aware of the faulty handrail on Wednesday, January 3, at which point I reported it to John Doe. John told me the problem would be fixed right away, but two months later, nothing has been done about it."
    • Include pictures of the condition if possible. If you were not able to take pictures, describe the condition in as much detail as possible.
    • Let HR know that you believe the condition poses a hazard to employees. If it violates a specific law or code, consider citing it.
    • If an individual does something that puts others at risk, be sure to document who was involved and when it happened. For example, if a supervisor has been encouraging employees to work without the proper safety equipment, consider writing something like, "On March 2, 2016, I heard Max tell a group of workers to keep working on the second floor of a building, even though the scaffolding was unsafe."
    • You have the right to refuse to work in unsafe conditions. If the company does nothing to fix the problem, report it to OSHA.
  4. Image titled Write a Complaint Letter to Human Resources Step 12
    Complain about company procedures. If you believe some of the company's procedures are unfair, unlawful, or discriminatory in nature, you may want to write a letter to HR outlining your complaints. If you think it may be possible to remedy the situation with your boss, consider talking to him about the policy before you write your letter.
    • Be sure to clearly outline the procedure that you have a problem with. If it is a written procedure, refer to your employee manual for complete details. If it is not a written procedure, explain who uses this procedure and under what circumstances. For example, if the supervisors at your company tend not to approve vacation time until the day before the proposed vacation, you may write, "I realize there are no formal guidelines for how soon vacation time must be approved, but I believe the way that Bill and Mary are currently handling the issue violates employees' rights to paid time off, as waiting until the last minute makes it impossible to book travel plans."
    • Provide evidence if possible. If, for example, you believe that you are owed overtime pay, include a copy of your time sheet to demonstrate that you worked over 40 hours in a given week.
    • If you are dealing with a discrimination issue, it is probably a good idea to hire an attorney. It can be extremely difficult to prove discrimination without one.[11]

Part 3
Deciding If a Letter Is the Best Course of Action

  1. Image titled Write a Complaint Letter to Human Resources Step 13
    Determine if the action is illegal. When deciding whether or not you should submit a complaint to the HR department of your company, the first thing that you need to think about is whether the conduct you are reporting violates any laws. If you determine that the action is illegal, it is very important that you file a formal complaint. Examples of illegal behavior that should be reported immediately include the following:[12]
    • Sexual harassment
    • Discrimination
    • Violence
    • Theft
    • Failure to pay an employee's wages
  2. Image titled Write a Complaint Letter to Human Resources Step 14
    Determine if the action is against company policy. Even if the action you want to report is not illegal, it may be expressly against the company's policy, in which case HR may want to know about it. Review your employee handbook to determine if the behavior that's bothering you is actually against company policy. If it's not, a letter to human resources will probably not be your best course of action..
    • Avoid being a tattletale. You should not report coworkers to HR every time you notice that they are late or that they are violating the dress code.
    • Be sure to report anything that threatens the safety or well-being of employees right away.
  3. Image titled Write a Complaint Letter to Human Resources Step 15
    Consider how serious the problem is. Formal complaints to HR should be reserved for serious issues only. HR departments typically do not appreciate being asked to settle minor grievances, so don't turn to them for every last thing. If you don't think there is any other way to address your problem, go ahead and write a letter.[13]
    • Less serious problems can often be addressed without involving HR. Think about whether you can talk to the person you want to complain about and work things out yourselves. If that doesn't work, you might also consider talking to your boss about the problem before you file a formal complaint.
    • Be sure to consider whether it may be possible to resolve the issue by simply having a conversation with HR, rather than writing a formal letter. For example, if your paycheck was incorrect, you should make sure HR is aware of the problem and has an opportunity to fix it before writing a formal complaint letter.
    • While it shouldn't matter who you are complaining about, the reality is that senior management is often treated differently. If you want to complain about a high-ranking employee, it is especially important that your complaint be serious, not frivolous.[14]
  4. Image titled Write a Complaint Letter to Human Resources Step 16
    Determine if the incident was isolated or repeating. In some circumstances, it may be important to understand whether the incident you are reporting happened only once or if it is a common occurrence. The HR department may not take an isolated incident as seriously as they would if it were a pattern of behavior.[15]
    • This does not apply to harassment, violence, or any actions that create a hostile or dangerous workplace, which should be reported immediately, even if they are isolated incidents.
  5. Image titled Write a Complaint Letter to Human Resources Step 17
    Understand the reputation of your company's HR department. Some HR departments are very helpful and strive to help their employees, while others are notorious for labeling complainers as trouble makers. Before you submit your complaint, be sure to think about the possible repercussions.[16]
    • Think about how the HR representatives have treated you in the past. If you have had bad experiences with them in the past, do not expect them to be especially helpful.
    • Also consider how other complaints have been handled. If you know someone was recently fired after submitting a complaint about his boss, you may want to rethink your decision to write that letter.

Sample Complaint Letters

Sample Sexual Harassment Letter of Complaint

Sample Emotional Abuse Letter of Complaint

Sample Unfair Treatment Letter of Complaint

Sources and Citations

Show more... (13)

Article Info

Categories: Letters