What Do I Do if When You Are Investigating Someone's Life Choices? Lynch Law Firm, Workplace Investigation, Austin, Texas
Jan. 5, 2022
How do you investigate complaints about somebody's lifestyle choices? As example, things like breastfeeding in the office, or choosing not to wear deodorant, or eating a lot of fish for lunch, or using a lot of slang. Things like that get complained about a lot. A lot of those complaints are things that grow or stem from protected classes, right? As investigators, we need to very clearly have education in the root causes of complaints lik these. So we eat according to our culture and culture is often also tied to race. Those things are protected. We also speak in different ways because of the way the communities we were raised in speak. Which also tend to fall into religious lines, race lines, and other protected classes that have very natural manifestations in the workplace. In another example, the choice to breastfeed or not breastfeed is one that only affects one gender in our society.
And so a lot of the complaints about lifestyle choices that come in stem from complaints that have bias and bias that has a legal shield. And so we need to always be careful to explore this because it could also be something fairly innocuous. Perhaps someone is breastfeeding so that "Their breastfeeding pump is so loud, I can't talk on my speakerphone, in the next room." "I just wish they would move one room over to do their breast pumping," and things like that. Obviously, noisiness isn't protected but the underlying cause of a breast pump is quite likely tied to an activity that is protected.
It's important that, while we know a lot of these lifestyle choices are very closely affiliated with protected class, that we don't go into that initial interview with our own bias, assuming that every compliant is going to grow out of bias. And we need to hear the reporting party explain their concern. We need to explore why a thing about a lifestyle is bothering our reporter and the root cause of that tension and see where the investigation goes from there. But it always starts with an open-minded engagement between the investigator and the reporting party.