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Guiding Principals: Decision to Conduct an Investigation

Employers and human resources staff are often put in the difficult position of trying to determine whether or not to conduct a workplace investigation. It can be taxing to decide whether information warrants an official workplace investigation. However, by following these guiding principles, this decision can be easier.  

A Report Has Been Made  

Many employers have comprehensive employment policies that explain prohibited conduct and mandate reporting. An employee handbook or policy may dictate that if a report has been made that human resources will launch an investigation. Sometimes this decision is discretionary. However, if there is a policy that states that an investigation will commence after the human resources department comes in receipt of a report, the employer may be prudent by always following up on such reports. 

A Law May Have Been Broken

Many forms of conduct that result in a workplace investigation are based on specific legislation. For example, federal and state laws prohibit discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, sex, age (if 40 or older), religion and disability. If a law of this nature is violated, it may be prudent for a business to launch its own internal investigation before a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or another agency is involved.

The Business Needs to Protect Itself

Guiding principles for businesses must always consider the need for the business to protect its bottom line or reputation. Legal advisors may recommend that the employer investigate reports if they believe that failing to respond would expose the employer to liability. This decision often requires having a confidential consultation with legal counsel to determine the most prudent decision going forward. 

Determining whether to launch an investigation is an important consideration. These guiding principles can provide insight into this decision. 

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Cite this article: Lynch, N. (2017). Guiding Principals: Decision to Conduct an Investigation. Available: