With allegations into racial discrimination at the workplace rarely upheld by employers or courts, Roger Kline, Naledi Kline and Joy Warmington give a set of questions for investigators to ensure more robust investigations.
What questions might investigators ask?
- Are you confident you recognise the organisational and individual behaviours that maintain racist practices? If you’re not, then maybe someone else should investigate since understanding discrimination should help frame the lines of inquiry?
- Do the terms of reference have enough latitude for the investigator to investigate, to follow the evidence and be able to make recommendations on issues of race if they surface? Does that allow for flexibility on timescales (and potentially cost) where necessary?
- Are you confident that you understand the subtle ways in which bias may affect the investigation? We wouldn’t expect someone to investigate a clinical concern without some specialist understanding. What steps are being taken to prevent investigators being biased towards “people who make me comfortable” or “people who are like me,” and conversely wary or disbelieving of “people who make me uncomfortable” and “are not like me.” How will you make sure the investigation avoids the temptation to seek evidence that confirms their bias or make judgements based on an individual’s demeanour which may be culturally influenced?
- Has the investigation accessed and understood workforce data and staff survey data on discipline, recruitment, bullying, access to staff development, turnover, career progression, and whether it is safe to raise concerns – disaggregated by department, professional and site – over the last three years? Is that information benchmarked with similar or nearby organisations?
- Has the investigation accessed and understood any previous investigation reports, and grievances, whether upheld or not, which referenced race discrimination?
- Has the investigation accessed and understood organisational workforce equality reports, which often give some insight into specific issues, hot spots, previous action plans and their impact?
- Are all interviews conducted in a safe space for all staff and in particular for BME staff who may be anxious about the consequences of alleging discrimination?
- Have staff who have left the organisation and may therefore feel more secure giving evidence been invited to interviews?