Overview: In the event of litigation, an effective employee investigation can be extremely persuasive to fact finders like judges and juries. If the employer can show its investigation was prompt, thorough and impartial, it can reduce the employer's exposure. A proper investigation should demonstrate the employer's sincerity in addressing employee complaints, its wherewithal in fixing problems, and its objectivity in assessing the weight of evidence gathered from witnesses.
Employers should take prompt action in preparing for and during the course of investigations to ensure completeness and objectivity. It can accomplish these goals by quickly nominating the correct employee(s) to oversee various aspects of the investigation including interviewing key witnesses and making the final decision when the investigation is complete.
Trends: Employers often take measures to restrict employee activities during the course of investigations. In some cases, those restrictions are appropriate and relevant to the goal of the investigation. For example, if an employer directs employees not to discuss the details of an investigation, it may be justified in issuing such a restriction if it is important to maintain the confidentiality of the complaining witness(es).
However, employers may not issue unnecessary or overly broad restrictions that do not truly advance the goals of conducting the investigation. These types of restrictions undermine the objectivity of the investigation and may also run afoul of the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) even if the employer does not have a unionized workforce.
Author: Michael Jacobson, JD, Legal Editor
When employers need to investigate claims of harassment, discrimination or other workplace misconduct, the process of conducting an effective internal investigation can be challenging. This step-by-step recitation of the important issues and pitfalls of internal investigations will guide employers through the process, removing the guesswork.
Before disciplining employees, employers need to implement policies and procedures that enforce rules of conduct and communicate those policies to employees. This section reviews the discipline process, different discipline types, alternatives to discipline and special discipline situations, including attendance, theft, substance abuse and whistleblowers.
This checklist is designed to walk employers through the process of responding to a complaint or allegations before actually launching an internal investigation. Employers are obligated to take quick, effective and reasonable action in responding to workplace complaints, even before they conduct investigations or collect the results of investigations, in order to guard against liability and to protect employees from misconduct.
Internal investigations are crucial for employers in responding to allegations of workplace misconduct. This internal investigations policy document informs your employees as to the purpose of conducting investigations, what their rights and responsibilities are during investigations and how the employer will use the results it obtains in the course of investigating. Having an effective policy is the first step toward conducting an effective investigation.
Employers are required by law to conduct internal investigations when they learn of certain types of misconduct in the workplace, including sexual harassment, unsafe work practices or violations of federal, state or local laws. This section assists HR professionals in selecting the right investigator, interviewing witnesses, documenting the investigation and concluding the investigation.
In-depth review of the spectrum of California employment law requirements HR must follow with respect to workers' compensation.
In-depth review of the spectrum of New York employment law requirements HR must follow with respect to workers' compensation.
In-depth review of the spectrum of Florida employment law requirements HR must follow with respect to workers' compensation.
In-depth review of the spectrum of Illinois employment law requirements HR must follow with respect to workers' compensation.
In-depth review of the spectrum of Maine employment law requirements HR must follow with respect to workers' compensation.
HR guidance on the importance of conducting thorough and objective investigations as a tool to guard against and/or defeat litigation.