Workplace investigations are inherently tricky. Navigating your legal obligations aside, you’re also required to balance the needs and rights of any complainant with the rights of your company (or your employer). To compound this, every action you make may be dissected in a courtroom years down the line. Here are 3 tips that may help you get your workplace investigation right:
1. Go into your workplace investigation with an open mind.
Oftentimes, it will show in your decision making if you investigate a matter with your mind already made up. You may overlook evidence to the contrary, be hasty in your consideration of new facts when they come to light or be hasty in your decision making generally. An open mind allows you to make slower, more deliberate, more thoughtful decisions.
2. Document absolutely everything.
Any decision you make during your workplace investigation may be subjected to scrutiny down the line. It is critical that you document your reasoning for every decision so you can justify your stance. Events that seem unimportant can be monumentally important when placed under a microscope. Consider, for instance, a case where there were three witnesses identified in a workplace claim. You only interviewed two of them. The third was on maternity leave during the investigation. Without a note confirming the rationale for ‘leaving out’ the third witness, you may come off looking like you undertook a poor, incomplete investigation.
3. If there’s any question of whether bias exists, outsource the workplace investigation.
An unbiased investigation is essential, especially if it pertains to a sensitive issue (like harassment) or a matter that’s likely to be litigated (like a dismissal).If there’s any question of whether bias exists, it’s usually worth your while to outsource the investigation. Other benefits of outsourcing it include risk minimization, gaining access to relevant expertise and experience, and a guarantee of a thorough, unbiased investigation.
+ 5 Quick Tips for HR, Managers, and Supervisors
- Take all claims seriously – even if they appear false, you need to conduct a thorough, proper investigation.
- Train all your managers and supervisors to handle complaints appropriately, so they can pass on the relevant details to HR for the investigation.
- Complaints by witnesses or those who have second-hand knowledge should be properly investigated. That is to say, HR should investigate all complaints, even if they are passed on by an employee who is not the recipient of the improper conduct.
- Do not promise confidentiality. Instead, say you will do your best to maintain confidentiality.
- Take complete notes using language that’s as close to verbatim as possible. Truncated or clipped notes can cause problems.
If you need any guidance relating to workplace investigations, feel free to reach out. We’re here to help!
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