HR HotSpot Recap: Conducting Effective Workplace Investigations

Jennifer Bouman-Steagall
“Conducting Effective Workplace Investigations,” presented by Jennifer Bouman-Steagall.

Many employers have a variety of policies in place meant to reduce harassment or discrimination claims.

But simply having policies in place isn’t enough.

It’s important for employers to ensure that they have a strong complaint resolution process. And it’s even more important to know when a complaint merits investigation.

Want to make sure you are conducting investigations correctly?

Jennifer Bouman-Steagall, Red Kite Employment Law Founder and experienced Employer Defender, shared some helpful advice for employers on how to conduct workplace investigations in a timely, effective and meaningful manner, during our HR HotSpot: Conducting Effective Workplace Investigations.

Short on time?

Here are 6 key takeaways to help you conduct effective investigations:

1. Logistics

Develop a plan within the first 24 hours of receiving a complaint. Make sure everyone knows what actions are going to be taken.

Determine whether it should be an internal investigation or an outside investigation. (Note: if it’s a big enough issue and you are in doubt about which type makes the most sense, check with your local counsel.)

2. Investigation Mindset

Remember that you are NOT looking for the truth. Everyone has different views and perspectives. You should just be trying to determine whether or not a policy was violated.

Whoever your investigator is, make sure they are impartial, objective and trained.

3. Investigation Plan

Preparing an investigation plan is key. Ask yourself: what questions do we need to answer? What issues do we need to resolve? Determine the time-frame to conduct the investigation. Outline potential witnesses.

4. Interviewing Witnesses

Know who is allowed in the room with a witness, and who isn’t.

Have a plan for the witness order. (Recommended: complainant, accused, witnesses, follow-up.)

Remember that witness cooperation is expected, retaliation is prohibited, and dishonesty during an investigation can be grounds for immediate termination. And confidentiality cannot be required. (Jennifer offers some great tips on how you can encourage it.)

5. Questions and Note-taking

You control the pace of the witness interviews. Go as fast or as slow as you like or need to. Make sure you get the information you need. (Who? What? Where? Why? When? How?)

Keep in mind that while recording a conversation might be tempting, witnesses might shut down if they are being recorded. And recordings can become evidence.

6. Remember the Goal

The goal of any investigation is to determine if a policy has been violated. You want to stop certain behaviors now and prevent them moving forward.

If you determine that a policy has been violated, then you must take steps to address the issue. If you determine that a policy has not been violated, no further action is needed.)

For a more in-depth look at effective workplace solutions, watch the full webinar. There are plenty of great tips and lots of relevant information that can help you gain some insight on this hot issue.

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