If an issue has arisen in your workplace, a thorough investigation can help you determine what happened. An investigation can also help you determine how to handle the issue. Not everyone knows how to conduct an effective workplace investigation, but the below steps can help ensure yours is a successful one.
Even when there is an issue at your place of work, an investigation may not be necessary. For example, if all employees are in agreement about what happened, an investigation may cost you unnecessary time and money. On the other hand, if the problem is more serious, an investigation is usually worthwhile.
Sometimes, you may have to take immediate action even before you start your investigation. If an employee is publishing trade secrets or sexually harassing another worker, you may have to suspend them temporarily. Make it clear that you have not yet made a decision about what happened, and always suspend these employees with pay.
It is generally better to hire an outside investigator who has the necessary experience and training. It is also important that the investigator is impartial, and that they can testify in court, if necessary.
Before you even start talking to employees or collecting evidence, you must get organized. Collect any documents you have pertaining to the investigation, such as an employee’s complaint, and use it to determine how you will proceed with your investigation, such as determining which employees you will interview.
During your investigation, you are trying to gather information, which usually requires that you speak to people. You will likely want to interview the employee that submitted the complaint, the employee the complaint is against, and any witnesses that could provide additional information.
Although interviews are beneficial, you will need other evidence, as well. This may include company policies, personnel files, correspondence, email messages, and more. A professional investigator can then help you evaluate the evidence, such as by determining which party’s story makes the most sense.
Your investigation may lead to you taking certain actions, such as disciplining an employee for serious misconduct. The faster you take action, the better your chances of shielding yourself from liability.
Once the investigation is over, you should draft a complete report explaining what the investigation entailed, what was discovered, and what was done about it. This documentation will help if an employee engages in wrongdoing in the future, and can help protect the company from claims of liability.
Lastly, you must follow up on any investigation. Speak to the employee who filed the complaint and ask if they believed the resolution was satisfactory, and ensure the misconduct has stopped. You should also follow up on any requirements the wrongdoer was supposed to meet, such as attending a harassment course. In some cases, retraining may also be necessary for certain employees.
If you need to conduct an investigation in your place of work, our Columbus employment lawyers at Marshall Forman & Schlein LLC, can assist with it. Call us today or fill out our online form to schedule a consultation and to learn more about how we can help you make things right in your workplace.
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