The Complaints Handling Process

The Complaints Process

One of the functions of the Equal Opportunities Commission as outlined in S. 23 of the Equal Opportunities Commission Act 2007 is to receive, investigate and, as far as possible, conciliate allegations of discrimination.

The Commission therefore has a legal right to investigate a complaint if the subject matter of the complaint falls within the purview of its mandate and the Act.

Starting a Complaint

1
Why lodge a Complaint?

The Equal Opportunities Commission Act, 2007, provides for the prohibition and prevention of marginalization and discrimination. It also seeks to promote equal opportunities between persons of different status. Pursuant to this Act, the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC) and Equal Opportunities Tribunal (EOT) were established.

The function of the EOC is to work towards the elimination of discrimination and to promote equality of opportunity and affirmative action.

2
Who can lodge a Complaint?

Any individual or group of persons who believes that some other body or person has marginalized or discriminated against him/her or a group of persons on the ground of sex, age, race, colour, ethnic origin, tribe, birth, creed or religion, health status, social or economic standing, political opinion or disability.

3
What are the Categories of Marginalisation and Discrimination?

In order for a person or group of persons to be eligible to lodge a complaint to the Commission, the acts of discrimination and marginalisation MUST fall within one or more of the following categories: age, sex, race, colour, ethnic origin, tribe, birth, creed or religion, health status, social or economic standing, political opinion or disability.

4
How is a Complaint lodged?

When lodging a complaint with the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), you are required to fill out a Complaint(s) Registration Form fully which must be submitted by post, email or in person at the EOC offices or regional Centres. A complaint is deemed to be made when this form is completed and received at the EOC.

Please note that a complaint can only be processed if the form is completed in its entirety and contains all the information required and duly signed. The EOC does not act on anonymous complaints.

Individuals who have special needs and require assistance in order to lodge a complaint (e.g sign language interpreter, print materials in an accessible format, etc) should inform the office of the Secretary to the EOC so that appropriate arrangements can be made.

Complaint(s) Registration Forms are available electronically at the link set out on this website or can be collected at the EOC offices or regional Centres. Plans are underway to have these forms available at district headquarters throughout the country.

5
What information must be provided to lodge a Complaint?
  • Your contact details;
  • The contact details of the person or entity you are complaining against.
  • A short description of the alleged discrimination or marginalisation (the event that caused the complaining party to believe that his or her rights were infringed); and the rights alleged to have been violated.
  • The date(s) of the alleged act(s) of discrimination.
  • Possible witnesses
  • Supporting Evidence (this can be attached to the complaint(s) registration form).
  • Remedies being sought.
6
What are the limits for filing a Complaint of Marginalisation or Discrimination?
  • A complaint must be lodged with the EOC within six (6) months from the date of the alleged discrimination or Marginalisation.
  • Complaints made after the six (6) month period will only be processed if exceptional circumstances caused a delay which resulted in the complaint being made outside the stipulated time period. The decision as to whether exceptional circumstances exist will be made by the EOC.
  • The EOC does not handle matters pending before a court or judicial tribunal, or a matter involving the relations or dealings between the Government of Uganda and the Government of any foreign State or international organization, a matter relating to the exercise of the prerogative of mercy, and matters concerning morality.
7
Where can a Complaint be Lodged?

All complaints can be submitted in person at the EOC offices, by post, email or online using the EOC website. Provided that all complaints lodged online should be followed up by submission of hard copies of the complaint(s) registration form and all documents being relied on to prove the violation.

Receiving the Complaint

One of the functions of the Equal Opportunities Commission as outlined in S. 23 of the Equal Opportunities Commission Act 2007 is to receive, investigate and, as far as possible, conciliate allegations of discrimination.

The Commission therefore has a legal right to investigate a complaint if the subject matter of the complaint falls within the purview of its mandate and the Act.

Investigating the Complaint

The purpose of the investigation is to determine if there is sufficient evidence to indicate that discrimination or marginalisation has occurred.

The Investigating Officer will interview and consult with persons who have direct knowledge of the allegations and/or who are in a position to gather, generate or support information relevant to the allegations.

Investigations will be completed as promptly as possible. The time to complete an investigation may vary depending upon the allegations and number of individuals involved. Under S.23(3) of the EOC Act, the Commission must hear and determine the complaint within six months from the date of receipt thereof.

What to Expect as a Complainant

The Investigating Officer handling the complaint will contact you to schedule an initial interview to discuss the complaint. You may have to meet with the Investigating Officer at various times during the investigation process.

You may be requested to provide further information about your complaint. You should provide the Commission with relevant information and documents to support your complaint.

Complainants are encouraged to provide the investigating officer with a signed written statement detailing the factual allegations of the complaint. A request for this statement will be made by the Investigating Officer.

The Commission will inform the respondent of the complaint and provide the respondent with a summary of the allegations made against him/her/them.

The Commission may ask the respondent to provide specific information or a detailed response to the complaint. The Commission will let you know what was in the respondent’s reply.

Where appropriate, the Commission will invite you to participate in conciliation.

What to Expect as a Respondent

The Commission will notify you that it has received a complaint and will provide you with a summary of the allegations made by the Complainant. The Commission is committed to ensuring that you have a fair opportunity to respond and attempt to resolve the complaint.

The Chairperson may write to you seeking information about the allegations and requesting relevant documents. This could include witness statements, minutes of meetings, and copies of personnel files, medical reports or any other documents which will assist in resolving the matter.

If the Commission requests that you provide information or documents, you will be asked to provide this within a specific timeframe.

If you have still not responded or provided all of the requested information, you may be called in to appear before the Commission.

If the requested information is still not forthcoming, the Commission will initiate summary conviction proceedings against you.

The Commission also has power under the Act to request that persons or organisations appear before the Commission or attend conciliation.

The Commission may also provide the complainant with a summary of the information and documents that you provide to the Commission. This can help the Complainant in deciding whether to continue with the complaint.

Where appropriate, the Commission will invite you to participate in conciliation.

You do not need a lawyer to respond to the complaint although you may choose to do so. If you do desire the advice of a lawyer, it will be your responsibility to secure one.

After the Investigation

On completion of the investigation process, the Commission will prepare a report of its findings.

The Commission shall determine at the conclusion of the investigation whether a breach of the Act has occurred. If an investigation reveals that a breach did occur, the Commission will attempt to have the matter referred to Conciliation.

If the investigation reveals that there is no evidence to support the complaint of discrimination or marginalisation, the Commission will notify both parties in writing and shall gives its reason for such a decision.  The Complainant will be given fourteen (14) days in which to provide additional information to the Commission, if necessary.

If no such information is supplied or if the information supplied is not substantial enough to warrant a reopening of the complaint, the Complaint will be officially closed and no further action shall be taken by the Commission.

Conciliation

if the Commission finds that there has been a violation, and it considers that the subject matter of the complaint can be resolved by conciliation, the matter will be referred for Conciliation.

However, either party to the complaint may seek to proceed by Conciliation at any stage during the investigation before the matter is referred, as long as the other party agrees.

Conciliation is an informal process where the complainant and the respondent have the opportunity to discuss issues in the complaint in an attempt to arrive at an amicable resolution.

Conciliation is not a Court hearing and the conciliator does not decide if anyone is right or wrong or how the complaint should be resolved. This is entirely up to the parties. The conciliator is merely there to ensure that the process is fair and to assist both parties.

The Conciliator is impartial and will set the standards for the meeting. He/She decides how the conciliation process will be conducted. The Conciliator will advise both parties as to the number of persons allowed at the conciliation meeting. It is not necessary for the parties to be represented by a lawyer but if either party decide to have one they must pay for that service privately.

Conciliation is a confidential process and will not form part of any further proceedings related to the complaint.

If both parties reach an agreement, a formal written agreement will then be prepared, signed by both parties and registered at the Equal Opportunities Commission Tribunal where it then becomes an order of the Tribunal.

What happens if the complaint is not resolved by Conciliation?

If the complaint is not resolved, the Commission may request more information from the parties before making a final decision about the complaint.

If the Commission is satisfied that the complaint cannot be resolved and the Commission considers that there has been a breach of the Act, the Commission will prepare a report relating to the investigation and have the matter heard interparties. The Commission will hear the matter and make a decision or recommendations, send a copy of the decision to the parties to the complaint and make said decision available for inspection by the public.

What happens if a party is not satisfied by the decision of the Commission?

Under Section 29 of the EOC Act, any person aggrieved by the settlement, recommendation or an order of the Commission may appeal to the High Court within thirty (30) days.

The Conciliation Process

What is Conciliation

  • Conciliation is an informal, quick, and cost effective way to resolve a complaint.
  • The process allows the complainant and the respondent an opportunity to talk about the issues.
  • It allows the parties an opportunity to resolve the matter themselves.
  • Conciliation normally takes place in a face-to-face meeting.
  • The conciliation process is not like a court hearing. It is not a forum for cross examination or to determine whether a breach of the law has occurred.

Role of the Conciliator

  • The Conciliator is not an Advocate for either side.
  • The Conciliator does not tell either side what they should do to resolve the complaint.
  • The Conciliator is an impartial participant, who has no personal interest in the outcome of the dispute.
  • The primary role of the Conciliator is to facilitate a voluntary un-coerced resolution of a dispute among the participants.
  • The Conciliator encourages mutual respect between the participants.
  • The Conciliator structures the conciliation process to allow the parties to make decisions based on sufficient information and knowledge.
  • Should there be a conflict of interest the Conciliator shall disclose all actual and potential conflict of interest and shall withdraw from the Conciliation process.
  • The Conciliator should not give the Complainant or the Respondent any legal advice.

Attendance at Conciliation

  • The complainant and the respondent are the main people in a conciliation process.
  • Where the respondent is a company or organization, a representative can be appointed. This person should have the authority to make a decision on behalf of the company or organization.
  • If the parties wish to bring a lawyer or an advocate, they are expected to participate in the conciliation conference with the aim of assisting in resolving the complaint.
  • Advocates and lawyers are only allowed to consult with their clients and will cooperate and communicate with the conciliator in a conciliatory manner.
  • If the parties wish to bring a support person they are only there for moral support and will not be able to participate in the process.
  • If you need assistance such as a language or sign language interpreter, the Commission should be informed so arrangements can be made before the conciliation.

Confidentiality during Conciliation

  • All communication and information, whether written or oral, arising from or during the conciliation process will be treated by the participants and by the conciliator as confidential.
  • Evidence of any information disclosed during the conciliation session is not admissible in proceedings before the Tribunal according to the Equal Opportunity Act, 2000, Part VII Section 40.
  • The Commission expects that the complainant and respondent will agree to keep conciliation discussions and negotiations confidential. This means that the parties agree not to use what is said and done in the conciliation process in any related court proceedings, if the complaint is not resolve.
  • The parties also agree not to make the information public in any other way.

The Process:

  • The Conciliator may meet with the parties privately before the conference begins and also at different stages during the process.
  • During theses private session (caucus) the conciliator will not tell the other side what was discussed unless the parties agree. If the conciliator thinks it is important to share the information with the other party the conciliator will discuss this with you first.
  • The Complainant and Respondent will then meet together with the conciliator. The Conciliator will give both sides the opportunity to share their perspective on the issue.
  • The Conciliator will help you talk about ways the complaint may be resolved.
  • At any time during the process you can ask for a break or to meet privately with the Conciliator or with your lawyer, advocate or support person.

Resolution of complaint

  • If the Complainant and Respondent have reached an amicable resolution this is usually written up in a ‘conciliation agreement’.
  • The Conciliator will help the parties draft the agreement.

No resolution of complaint

  • If a complaint is not resolved the Conciliator will forward the case to the Legal Unit for further management.

Preparing for conciliation 

  • The Complainant and Respondent should ensure that they attend on the date and time assign for conciliation.
  • The Complainant and Respondent should notify the Conciliator of any changes before the date of the conciliation session.
  • The Complainant and Respondent are encouraged to obtain their own independent legal advice prior to the Conciliation session.
  • The Complainant and Respondent should understand how the law may apply to the complaint and what might happen if the complaint is not resolved in conciliation.
  • The Complainant and Respondent should be prepared to talk and negotiate with each other by agreeing to listen to the other side and to be respectful.
  • The Complainant and Respondent should think about a number of options to resolve the complaint and be prepared to explain why they think it is fair.
  • The Complainant and Respondent should also think about how far they may be willing to compromise to resolve the complaint.

Important to Note

Confidentiality

All information received in connection with the filing, investigation and resolution of the allegations will be treated as confidential except to the extent it is necessary to disclose particulars in the course of the investigation or when compelled to do so by law.

The Commission requests that all parties involved in the process should observe the same standard of discretion and respect for the reputation of everyone involved in the process.

Withdrawal of a Complaint

The Complainant may at any time withdraw a complaint made at the Commission by notice in writing. If the request is made verbally, the Complainant must submit the said request in writing within seven (7) days.

Does the Equal Opportunities Commission charge fees for its services?

No. All EOC services are free of charge.

Violent behaviour:

The Commission will not tolerate, condone or ignore violent conduct or threats of violence, implied or direct against Commission staff, complainants, respondents, other members of the public, Commission property, or property on the Commission’s premises belonging to others.

This includes but is not limited to: the use of force with the intent to cause harm, behaviour that diminishes the dignity of others through sexual, racial, religious or ethnic harassment, acts or threats which are intended to intimidate, harass, threaten, bully, coerce, or cause fear of harm whether directly or indirectly and acts or threats made directly or indirectly by oral or written words, gestures or symbols that communicate a direct or indirect threat of physical or mental harm.

Any person who, during their interaction with Commission staff displays the prohibited behaviour may have their complaint terminated with immediate effect and the incident will be recorded for future reference. Where appropriate the incident may be reported to the Uganda Police Force which may result in criminal prosecution.

Victimisation

Victimisation involves taking any adverse action against any person who is engaged in any matter before the Commission. This includes refusal to hire, denial of a promotion, threats or reprimands, giving negative performance appraisals, negative job references, among other things.

Victimisation against individuals for filing a complaint, furnishing information, assisting or participating in any manner in an investigation carried out by the Equal Opportunities Commission is prohibited.