Workplace Investigations

August 18, 2022

The workplace investigation is a critical tool for employers in the identification, resolution, and prevention of wrongdoing and misconduct. Workplace investigations are usually launched upon receipt of an employee complaint or where these is suspicion of inappropriate behavior. This commonly includes sexual harassment, discrimination, workplace violence, and other harassment or bullying. Whatever the cause of the investigation, it is important that employers respond promptly.

Selection of an Investigator

An investigation must be as impartial as possible. To assure this, employers should select an investigator that is removed from the events and has no stake in the outcome, has investigative skills and knowledge of employment laws, and is capable of being unbiased and fair. Oftentimes, internal investigations will be conducted by Human Resource professionals or in-house counsel.

For more serious allegations or where a business lacks the training, experience, or resources to conduct a proper internal investigation, some employers will instead seek the assistance of a neutral third-party investigator. This may be an independent human resource consultant, outside legal counsel, or a trained workplace investigator.

Create and Execute an Investigation Plan

An employer’s approach may differ from investigation to investigation depending on the events or allegations that are being investigated. Common investigatory tools include:

  • Interviews of the accused and the accuser.
  • Interviews of supervisors and third party witnesses.
  • Review of the organization’s policies.
  • Review of personnel files of the employees involved.
  • Review of relevant documents, including incident or other internal reports, security footage, phone and chat records, etc.

Report and Recommendation

After the investigation process is completed, it is important that the investigator document the findings in writing and issue a report with a final conclusion. This step is crucial, for if an employee is unsatisfied with the results of the investigation the employee may pursue litigation, subjecting the report to the scrutiny of a court. For this reason, the report should be prepared in a detailed and professional manner, with an analytical assessment of the credibility of every individual interviewed.

In issuing a final decision, the investigator may also recommend remedial steps, specialized training, or other measures with the goal of preventing such situations in the future.

Conclusion

Employers with complaints of wrongdoing or misconduct need to respond promptly with a workplace investigation, conducted in a manner that is both fair and impartial, in order to resolve the current conflict and prevent future ones.

If you would like more information or need help conducting a workplace investigation, please reach out to us.

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