Navigating the Complex Landscape of Workplace Investigations: Insights from Corporate Employment Attorney
In the dynamic world of corporate employment law, attorneys often find themselves at the forefront of unraveling workplace issues. Austin Kaplan, recently shared valuable insights during a discussion. This blog post will delve into critical takeaways from his conversation, shedding light on the challenges and nuances of addressing workplace concerns.
Uncovering the Real Issues:
Kaplan emphasized the complexity of identifying workplace issues, stating that it often takes time, even with attorney-client privilege, to discern the underlying problems. He highlighted an intriguing phenomenon where employees might initially reach out for seemingly trivial matters, such as a stolen yogurt, but eventually reveal more serious allegations like discrimination or harassment.
Motivations Behind Complaints:
One intriguing aspect Kaplan touched upon was the motivation behind employees' calls for legal assistance. Contrary to expectations, the catalyst for seeking legal help may not always align with the actual legal violation. The initial complaint about a stolen yogurt may lead to the discovery of more serious issues like racial comments or sexual harassment. Kaplan stressed the importance of not dismissing seemingly non-protected incidents, as they might indicate more profound problems.
The Jury's Perspective:
In a fascinating twist, Kaplan shared that the jury often focuses on seemingly trivial issues, like stolen yogurt or being left out of social events during trial presentations. Despite legal violations being the primary concern, these relatable incidents stir emotions and shape the narrative. This reminds attorneys not to underestimate the impact of seemingly insignificant workplace behaviors on a jury.
Navigating Non-Actionable Complaints:
The conversation shifted towards non-actionable complaints, such as workplace bullying that doesn't fall under a protected category. Kaplan acknowledged the challenge of re-characterizing these complaints as a legal violation. He highlighted the importance of investigators asking specific questions to identify potential legal hooks and protect the company from significant liability.
Handling Hostile Work Environment Claims:
Kaplan provided insights into measuring non-actionable behaviors against a hostile work environment claim. He emphasized that behaviors typically deemed non-actionable may become relevant if a protected characteristic or legal hook is found. Coaching employees and taking proactive measures to address undesirable workplace behaviors, even if not legally required, can be a strategic move in the long run.
Challenges in Investigations:
Responding to a question about investigating workplace complaints, Kaplan highlighted potential pitfalls that plaintiff's attorneys look for when challenging investigations. These include perceived bias, insufficient substantiation for serious allegations, and inadequate or laughable corrective actions. He underscored the importance of investigators being diligent and unbiased and ensuring actions taken align with the severity of the alleged violations.
Corporate employment attorneys like Austin Kaplan play a crucial role in navigating the complexities of workplace issues. Understanding the motivations behind employee complaints, recognizing the impact of seemingly trivial incidents, and addressing non-actionable behaviors are all essential aspects of creating a fair and effective workplace environment. As the landscape of employment law evolves, staying informed and proactive remains key for both legal professionals and employers alike. You must work with a credentialed independent investigator who continuously collaborates with practitioners on both sides of the bench to ensure your workplace investigation is exceedingly high quality. Reach out to the Lynch Law Firm today.