What Not To Do In a Workplace Investigation

Lindsay Walker | Corporate Compliance Insights

There’s a lot riding on a workplace investigation. One wrong move and the entire investigation could be compromised, negatively impacting the reputation of your organization and increasing the risk of additional lawsuits. Every aspect of a workplace investigation matters, which is why it’s important to plan carefully for each investigation.

Reputational Compliance

Reputational Compliance

Investigation Mistakes

Our organization held a webinar that was led by employment attorney Allison West, Esq., SPHR, investigator, trainer and founder of Employment Practices Specialists. During the hour-long webinar, West talked about 10 mistakes investigators make that can compromise workplace investigations.

Here’s a quick look at some of the mistakes that West shared during the webinar:

1. Delaying an investigation

It’s important that companies demonstrate that they take employee complaints seriously. Waiting too long to conduct an investigation can lead to a lot of risks for your organization:

  • Company could be seen as not taking complaints seriously
  • Misconduct could continue if not addressed
  • Witnesses, the subject or the complainant could forget the facts of the incident
  • Evidence can get destroyed, disappear or be tampered with

West suggests that investigators at least get the ball rolling in order to demonstrate a prompt response to employee complaints.

2. Failure to remain objective

Investigators need to remain objective throughout the entire investigation. During the webinar, West mentioned that companies have been criticized for selecting the wrong investigator for a case. An investigator’s skill set and expertise needs to be taken into consideration, as well as whether the person might be too close to those involved in the incident being investigated. Depending on the circumstances, it is sometimes best to bring in an external investigator to ensure the investigation is fair.

3. Drawing conclusions before all of the facts are in

West warns against reaching a conclusion before all the evidence is in. It’s all right to assess credibility as you go based on how the person responds to your questions and their demeanor, she says, but don’t base conclusions on this. When new information is brought forward, don’t dismiss it. New information could be presented at different stages of the investigation and investigators need to take time to review it.

Conduct follow-up interviews with people you’ve already interviewed if new information warrants them. Dig deeper if interviewees are vague or confusing in order to get a clearer picture of what they really mean when they say something.

For the complete list of mistakes, check out the webinar recording.

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