Internal investigations by employers in the case of harassment allegations are becoming more prevalent in today’s work environment. The practice of conducting workplace investigations is the best way to prevent litigations because employers who have taken appropriate action will be less likely to redress in court. When an employee decides to pursue legal action, the internal investigation of a complaint can play an important role in developing a comprehensive defense against the prospective claims of liability.
Conduct workplace investigations in a timely and effective way in order to minimize the risk of legal exposure to the employer.
First things first, the employers should have anti-discrimination policies set to stop all kinds of harassment under the federal and state law. Besides dispersing the policies to all the employees, employers should make sure that the supervisors and managers are trained on implementing these policies accurately and consistently. Once the notice of the conduct is placed, following the steps suggested by companies like Aequitask must be done:
- Identify when the investigation should take place: federal and state law empower prompt action by the employer in response to the harassment claims. If there is any threat of workplace violence, conducting an immediate investigation is deemed imperative.
- Determine who will conduct the interview: to that end, it is important to decide whether to use an internal investigator or a third party investigator. The pros of using an internal investigator are familiarity with the corporate culture and the personalities of the workforce, as well as the policies implicated. Internal investigators also hold credibility with the witness,provided s/he as a reputation for being fair with colleagues.
On the contrary, using an external investigator will increase objectivity and reduce the employees’ perception that the investigation is unfair or skewed. Also, using a third party investigator will add experience and professionalism to the investigation that may not be found with an internal employee.
- Make a list of the persons to be interviewed: consider investigating all people with potential knowledge, including former employees.
- Delineate the process to the complainant and the witness: it is important for the investigator to clearly state that complete confidentiality is not guaranteed and that information will be shared with people who need to know. The investigator should also keep the witness apprised of candid and truthful information. If false info is provided, the witness is subjected to discipline including termination.