What Do I Do to Define the Thing I Am Investigating?
Sept. 10, 2021
How do we define the thing we're trying to investigate? A reporting party may come to you and say, "I'm being harassed" or "I'm being discriminated against" or "I'm being treated poorly," or they may use less magic words and say things like "I'm getting pushed around." And ultimately, it's on the employer to determine if the complaint is something that's going to trigger a Title VII investigation or a concern about disparate treatment. Regardless, we have to get the reporting party to define what they mean by the words of their complaint because, while most investigators or lawyers or HR people are trained regarding the elements and the academic concepts around the ideas of discrimination, harassment, hostile work environment, most people in the world are not trained regarding these things.
And so they use our 'magic words' in a colloquial way and we need to get from the way that somebody is describing something in their mouth that they're experiencing back down through the elements covered by law or policy to see if those elements are similar enough to an allegation that some trigger would cause us to investigate, either our company policy or Title VII, something like that. So whenever we get an allegation, we need to define that allegation by understanding the elements of that allegation from the mouth of the reporting party.