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Conducting Effective Workplace Investigations

After an employer receives a complaint regarding illegal discrimination or another prohibited activity that warrants workplace investigations, it must carefully take steps to resolve the situation. Responding quickly and efficiently to such claims can help the company avoid potential liability and take action to ensure that the prohibited conduct ceases immediately. Workplace investigations also help the company identify internal problems before they become more common. The steps to conducting effective workplace investigation include:

Put Policies in Place

Before launching any workplace investigations, it is important for businesses to establish clear policies. These policies should indicate how such investigations will be conducted. They should identify the entity or individual who will be responsible for receiving complaints and conducting follow-up investigations. These procedures should be carefully followed in order to provide consistent results and to avoid claims of unfair treatment.

Protect Workers

The employer should take steps to ensure the confidentiality of the employee or applicant who makes the complaint. This is a difficult balance to maintain because the employer is also tasked with launching prompt and effective workplace investigations. However, the human resources manager should secure as much confidential information as possible, including interviews with other witnesses. He or she can explain that the information gathered during workplace investigations will be kept as confidential as possible under the circumstances. There may be other interim steps that need to be taken in order to protect employees, such as separating the employee from the person who has harassed or retaliated against him or her.

Develop a Plan

The investigator should develop a plan before launching the investigation. This includes outlining the issue, collecting documentation, determining which witnesses will be interviewed, gathering other evidence, and developing a way to retain the results of interviews and the investigation.

Make a List of Questions

Develop a list of questions that are geared towards uncovering the main and precipitating events that led to the complaint being filed. First ask questions about the environment the situation occurred in. Ask questions that elicit details about the claims, including dates, times and specific conversations that were involved in the process. After these questions are developed, the interviewer may commence with interviews. He or she may start with the employee making the complaint and then move on to witnesses. The person being accused may be the last person interviewed. Individuals should understand the purpose of the investigation and understand the investigative process. Questions should not lead the person in any certain direction. During the interviews, the investigator should take notes, let the interview guide them toward new evidence and look for inconsistencies.

Document Findings

After the investigation is completed, the person who conducted the interview and other relevant staff should review the information. Decisions that come from the investigative findings may not involve the investigator but should be consistent with previous remedial actions. It should provide an outline of the investigation and be communicated to the relevant parties. The decision should be followed up with corrective action, including any additional education that should be acquired, new policies that should be implemented and whether discipline is warranted.

Cite this article: Lynch, N. (2017). Conducting Effective Workplace Investigations: