Employers and human resource managers often come with us with questions regarding workplace investigations. Many want to know how to conduct a proper investigation.
Conducted properly, investigations can yield the facts necessary to make an informed decision regarding policy or disciplinary decisions.
One of the more common applications of a workplace investigation is to establish the facts in situations involving severe misconduct, such as workplace violence, sexual harassment, or theft. In these instances, conducting an impartial investigation of the complaint and acting on the conclusions can help settle the issue and convey that the organization takes the concern seriously. It can also help limit the company’s vicarious liability should the alleged misconduct lead to legal proceedings.
While an employer might be wondering when an investigation should be conducted—sometime statute will provide no choice, and will mandate employers investigate certain complaints. To make sure they are complying with the law, employers must know what those circumstances are and whether their employee’s complaint falls within a circumstance where an investigation is necessary.
Although employers may have good intentions in conducting their investigations, a flawed investigation can be costly.
Choosing an investigator who is ill-equipped, has a personal relationship with the parties, asks inappropriate questions, does not permit the interviewee to respond, ignores confidentiality, or formulates their conclusions incorrectly can lead to additional damages should the investigation lead to an employee’s wrongful dismissal.
On the same side of the coin, using a shoddy investigation as a means of justify a dismissal can also land an employer in trouble.
The choice of investigator, whether internal staff or an independent third party, depends on the nature of the situation. Some situations will require an independent third party where using internal staff will create a conflict of interest or where bias may occur.
Regardless of who is conducting the investigation, for the results to be of any use, ensure that the investigation is thorough, well-documented, and objective. Additionally, employers should ensure steps are taken to protect the privacy and confidentiality of those involved.
If you are an employer seeking information as to your legal obligations and best practices regarding investigations, or an employee wanting to know your rights regarding workplace investigations, our team of experienced employment lawyers at Achkar Law can help. Contact us at (800) 771-7882, or email firstname.lastname@example.org and we would be happy to assist.
Disclaimer: This blog is not intended to serve as, or should be construed as legal advice, and is only to provide general information. It is in no way particular to your case and should not be relied on in any way. No portion or use of this blog will establish a lawyer-client relationship with the author or any related party. Should you require legal advice for your particular situation, fill out the contact form, call (800)771-7882, or email email@example.com.
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