Workplace investigations are an important process in any workplace. In some cases they are required by legislation and in others they are just good practice. Before conducting your own internal workplace investigation, be sure you have considered all of the points below.
1. Pick an investigator who is (and who appears to be) neutral and unbiased
- Ask yourself, if pressure was placed on this individual by one of the parties, can she/he stand up to it?
- Is there a reporting or close working relationship with the potential investigator and one of the parties?
2. Conduct the workplace investigation in accordance with any policy your organization may have on the procedure
- Are there time limits?
- Are parties entitled to bring representatives?
- Are written submissions allowed?
3. Ensure Confidentiality of the Workplace Investigation Process
- Explain to the complainant, respondent and third party witnesses the importance of and obligations around keeping the process confidential
- Consider having this done in a written agreement that outlines their obligations and repercussions should they breach their duties
4. Do not ambush the Respondent
- In order to ensure a fair process, the Respondent should be advised in advance of her/his interview, what the allegations against her/him are and the basic facts of the complaint
- Consider doing so in writing
- Best provided after the Complainant’s interview
5. Consider Third Parties and How to Notify them
- Assess who to interview that has relevant information about the allegations
- Make it clear to them at first contact that they are a third party and not a direct party
6. Consider Whether Follow up Interviews are necessary
- Were any new issues raised that you need to review with the parties?
7. Document your Assessment of Credibility
- If credibility is a relevant factor in the investigation, analyze why you have found one witness to be more credible than the other and make note of why.
- Credibility is best assessed with in-person interviews
8. Determine whether each allegation is dismissed or founded
- On the balance of probabilities
- Do not conclude that you cannot make a decision
9. Draft a Comprehensive Report
- The report should address:
- what policy or aspect of legislation you are relying on;
- the scope of the investigation;
- who you interviewed and what documents you relied on;
- a summary of each allegation;
- what evidence you considered for each allegation; and
- what your finding on each allegation is
10. Provide the parties with a version of your report
- Provide on a need to know basis
- Usually a summary report is sufficient
- Ensure you are compliant with any legislative requirements
Need assistance in conducting an HR investigation or training your team?
Jennifer Costin and Beth Traynor offer bias-free workplace mediation, investigations and training services. Please feel free to reach out to Jennifer or Beth for more information or read The Importance of Properly Conducting Workplace Investigations to learn more.