In a perfect world, employers would not have to conduct internal workplace investigations. They would hire honest, loyal, hard working employees who would work without incident and would leave their personal problems at home. But in the real world employees are people, who come to work with all the different experience and viewpoints that people carry. Whatever the experience, employees may feel unfairly treated or may cause conflicts, and employers are required to assign blame and mete out discipline.
Employee problems come in all shapes and sizes such as complaints of sexual harassment, discrimination, theft, workplace accidents, and employee sabotage. When problems arise, they rarely are cleanly delineated and easily resolved. Employees often come to supervisors or human resources professionals through the muddied, if not conflicting, reports of the various people involved.
Because workplace disputes regularly have personal importance to the employees involved, their individual perceptions can be biased. From these differing accounts, employers must investigate and determine what really happened. To make matters more difficult, there is no magic formula for conducting workplace investigations; they necessarily vary based on the issues and the people involved. Some issues may be resolved quickly and discreetly while others may require broad canvassing of the entire workforce.
Any workplace investigation requires judgment calls about what issues to investigate, who to include in the internal investigation, and ultimately who to believe. Although no workplace investigation is perfect, the goal should be to conduct the investigation in the fairest way possible. Employers also must be mindful of the importance of appropriate documentation. Getting the documentation right is vital to conducting a proper workplace investigation. Once the investigation is completed, employers need to determine what documentation should be preserved.
Workplace investigations also have risks. A shoddy investigation may do more harm than good, raising questions about the accuracy of the results as well as casting doubt about the employer’s commitment to treating employees fairly. There also is the risk that an employer may not like what the investigation uncovers. It may reveal that a pivotal employee has committed offenses that require termination; it may require addressing systemic problems, which raise the specter of litigation.
At BLN, we lead and also conduct simple to complex internal investigations concerning employment-related and workplace issues. Our team of professionals has experience in managing and conducting sensitive matters discreetly and in a defensible manner. Our investigators also understand the time sensitivity to completing investigations quickly and where the attorney work product and attorney-client communication privileges apply. We also have experience testifying in defense of an investigation.
In addition to conducting investigations, we also provide comprehensive training to human resources, employee relations and related professionals who are charged with conducing and/or supervising workplace investigations. Please see Workplace Training for our workplace training offerings.
We understand the sensitivity, both in time and factual disclosure, of an internal workplace investigation.