Employees often report concerns to employers without actually using magic words like “discrimination,” “hostile environment,” or “harassment,” or “disparate treatment.” Employers are legally obligated to have the sophistication to receive and perceive employee complaints that trigger investigations. Smart employers also embrace the return on investment that comes from investigating other cultural and property concerns. Our team of tenured investigators can help you determine if an investigation is warranted and the scope of scrutiny to initiate. We understand that investigations are expensive and disruptive to organizations so our focus is always to satisfy the legal mandates in the least disruptive way that reveals the best root cause information.
Employee perceptions of being treated less favorably than peers can create resentment and distraction in the workplace. Employees may not understand every element of a peer’s work product, employment agreements, salary, or expectations; therefore, their assessment of differential treatment can be flawed. Frankly, reporting parties often seem a bit crazy as they explain their complaint. Even so, employers should never assume employee views of discriminatory treatment are unjustified without first understanding the details of their concern.
Employer’s Duty to Investigate
When workplace discrimination or harassment claims connect to lawfully protected categories, the employer has a legal duty to investigate those claims in a neutral, unbiased, and independent manner. Determining whether a complaint necessitates investigation requires sophisticated interaction with the reporting employee, including detailed indicators of harassment or unequal treatment, as well as suspected motivations for it. Allegations based on any of the following attributes require an immediate formal investigation by a neutral, unbiased, and experienced investigator:
- family status
- national origin
- military status
- sexual orientation*
- health conditions
It can be dangerous for an inexperienced employer to act on harassment or discrimination complaints without consulting an expert. They could unintentionally impede a future investigation or react in a way that is regarded as retaliation. At LLF, we can give you guidance on the investigative steps that are appropriate without overselling or overreacting to employee concerns.