Workplace investigations may be done in response to suspected violations of company rules, allegations of criminal misconduct, theft of company property, compliance issues, corruption or in response to allegations of discrimination and harassment. Moreover, the anti-discrimination laws impose a legal duty to conduct a prompt, through and unbiased investigation when employers becomes aware of a complaint of unlawful discrimination or unlawful harassment.
Litigation often hinges on the appropriateness of the investigation. When done properly, workplace investigations and prompt remedial action can serve as a defense to employment-related claims and preclude recovery. However, when such investigations are done improperly or there is a failure of the employer to take appropriate action following the investigation, there are significant risks of exposure.
For the investigation to withstand scrutiny, the investigator must be impartial, must be well trained and must have ample time to devote to the investigation to ensure that all leads are followed. Moreover, the investigator should not have a reporting relationship or otherwise be too close to the accused, the accuser or be too close to the incident itself. Where there is no one suitable to conduct the investigation or where the independence of the investigator needs to be underscored, referring the investigation to an outside investigator is recommended. Moreover, employees often see a neutral investigator as a sign that the employer is taking the matter seriously and is committed to the process.
Our Team is experienced in conducting workplace investigations involving workplaces of various sizes, various industries and often including sensitive issues involving high level officials in the public and private sectors in unionized and non-union settings.