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What Does Texas Law Mean for Enterprise Businesses Looking for An External Workforce Investigator?

Texas law prevents unlicensed people from promoting private investigation services, but attorneys are exempt from these laws. Under the Texas Private Security Act, the regulating bureau that ensures private investigator (PI) requirements are met by all who perform PI services, is the Texas Department of Public Safety, Private Security Bureau (PSB).

Chapter 1702 of the Occupations Code in the Private Security Act, specifically grants power to the PSB “to license and regulate investigations companies and other security-related businesses and to register and regulate their employees.” However, it’s the opinion of the Attorney General of Texas, Greg Abbott, that: 

Chapter 1702 does not expressly provide that exempt attorneys' employees must be licensed or registered with the Board. And we gather that from 1969, when the legislature first adopted the statutory predecessor to chapter 1702, until 2003, when the legislature last amended chapter 1702, the Texas Commission on Private Security and its predecessors had not interpreted the Act to apply to employees working under exempt attorneys' direct supervision.

This is a reasonable interpretation of chapter 1702's regulatory scope given that state law recognizes that attorneys rely on paralegals and other employees to assist them in practicing law.

What does all this mean for attorneys who do workplace investigations for enterprise businesses as well as for the clients who hire them? Keep reading to find out:

Attorneys are Credentialed Investigators

Unlike other experts who perform investigations, like human resources professionals, attorneys don’t have to succumb to regulations from the PSB.  This doesn’t mean they aren’t subject to investigative credentialing. Attorneys who handle workplace investigation can (and should) be credentialed through a professional organization called the Association of Workplace Investigators, or AWI. The AWI “is a professional membership association for attorneys, human resource professionals, private investigators, and many others who conduct, manage, or have a professional interest in workplace investigations.”

Their mission is to educate investigators on how to conduct impartial, high-quality workplace investigations. To be credentialed by the AWI is the gold standard for workplace investigations.

Attorneys show their expertise and prowess with more than just this set of credentials, however.

Unlike private investigators, who are self-trained, trained on-the-job, or former police officers and detectives, being an attorney requires an unparalleled dedication and commitment to education.

After all, attorneys are required to earn their Juris Doctorate, pass the bar exam, and participate in annual continuing legal education. Once an attorney starts down the path of representing enterprise businesses, workforce investigation is just another day’s work.

For these reasons, attorneys can be highly skilled, experienced and expertly credentialed investigators able to conduct your workforce private investigation.

This should be distinguished from human resources professionals who also often conduct workforce investigations for their employers.  Unlike these HR professionals, credentialed attorney workplace investigators are authorized to also perform neutral and independent third-party investigations for clients.  Be wary of an external HR consultant that does not even realize the state of Texas prohibits them from conducting investigations! 

For Attorneys, Professionalism is Part of the Job

When you hire an attorney, you know you are not only getting someone who is highly skilled and educated, but you are also hiring a professional. That’s not always true with the other guys. 

There are several qualities of a professional workplace investigator that an enterprise should look for upon receiving a claim needing investigation. For example, organizations should look for: 

  • Eagerness to collaborate: A good workplace investigator is invested in a client’s business, has an exceptional bedside manner, and embraces collaboration with companies and their HR and legal departments to understand the nature of a claim and flush out the investigation.

  • Focus on diagnosis: A good workplace investigator knows your time and money is valuable and is someone who focuses on getting results and not just billing hours.

  • Becomes an essential business partner: A good workplace investigator is invested in your company and wants to build a durable relationship with you to better anticipate and respond to your legal needs for investigation. By way of this relationship, an investigator offers insight and value to your organization.

  • Composure and mindset: As mentioned above, a good workforce investigator should exude professionalism, knows how to communicate with clients, clearly delivering complex information as succinctly as possible, and will be trustworthy, ethical and competent in all of their investigations.

It’s no coincidence that these are hard and soft skills that attorneys practice daily

You Need a Neutral Third Party

Many savvy HR departments are primed for investigation, except for one important concept--neutrality.

When it comes to investigating internal accusations of fraud or discrimination, it’s important that you hire a workforce investigator who serves as an independent, neutral third party, protecting the integrity of the investigation.

Private investigations in the workplace often result in scope creep. If you’ve never heard the term before, it’s what happens when a workplace investigator dedicates its resources to investigating a discrimination claim, and in the process, discovers fraud.

Although these types of issues are to be expected in the line of work, finding additional problems is often unnerving for clients. A qualified neutral investigator will seamlessly dedicate documentary efforts to the additional discovered issues so that the focus of the current investigation is not compromised. 

Lynch Law: Your Austin Investigation Firm

Natalie Lynch, attorney and principal at Lynch Law Firm, PLLC, began workplace investigations with tutelage from some of the best in the industry.

Her law practice started in Colorado where she serves as a two-time president of the Aurora Bar Association. Lynch now practices in Austin, Texas providing legal expertise to Austin business owners on matters of international business and investigative services.

For Lynch, the investigative process includes:

  • Creating entity documents that are workable 

  • Anticipating your current and future business needs

  • Securing your assets

Lynch Law Firm, PLLC is Austin’s law firm for investigations and corporate law. For more information on how Natalie Lynch can help your enterprise business, contact her here.