Overview: Internal employee investigations are one of the most effective proactive measures HR has at its disposal to address problems in the workplace, improve business practices and performance, prevent litigation and where unavoidable, prepare a strong defense. In the process of conducting investigations, however, HR professionals should be mindful of state and federal law to ensure investigations are smooth, productive and lawful.
Some common issues that arise in connection with internal investigations include selecting the right investigator, how and whether to interview certain witnesses, whether to maintain confidentiality of a complaining witness, whether certain methods of investigation, such as wiretapping, run afoul of federal or state law, keeping proper records and deciding how or whether to act when an investigation is complete.
Trends: Employers with a unionized workforce should also be mindful of employee rights under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), which enables employees to discuss issues for the purposes of collective bargaining. Recently, the National Labor Relations Board ruled that across-the-board prohibitions on discussions of internal investigations likely violate the NLRA without a showing by the employer that the prohibition serves a legitimate purpose.
Employers without a unionized workforce should also be mindful of absolute restrictions on employee conduct in connection with investigations unless there is a compelling reason to restrict conduct. The common objective of an investigation is to present an open and honest finding to an outside fact finder like a judge, jury or government agency. Thus, unnecessary restrictions on employee conduct could be viewed as oppressive and may undermine the legitimacy of the investigation.
Author: Michael Jacobson, JD, Legal Editor
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 California employment law requirements HR must follow with respect to workers' compensation.
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.
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.
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.
This How To details the steps a prudent employer should take when faced with a harassment complaint.
XpertHR's Financial Services Resource Center for HR helps financial services employers handle their most challenging employment issues by bringing relevant resources together in one place for easy access.
When employees are injured at work, the vast majority of incidents will be governed by state workers' compensation schemes which provide for lost wages and medical benefits, while shielding the employer from civil claims for damages. However, despite the purpose of these state workers' compensation schemes, many claims result in disputes or litigation, which adds layers of cost, loss of productivity and distraction for employers. This How To helps an employer navigate through the workers' compensation scheme from injury to return-to-work in a manner designed to minimize disputes and to maximize productivity.
XpertHR has added several new documents to its stable of resources on internal investigations, including a How To on conducting internal investigations, an internal investigation checklist, an internal investigation policy to be distributed to employees and FAQs dealing with common issues that arise with investigations.
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.
HR guidance on conducting and utilizing information obtained from internal employee investigations to reduce legal liability for the employer.