Employment attorney Robin Shea published an excellent article over at the Employment & Labor Insider blog entitled 9 traits of a bang-up workplace investigation. In my EEOC and NJ LAD mediations over the years, I have seen a number of poorly executed investigations. A poor investigation leaves the company with a poor defense posture and is unfair to the employee whose claim was not given proper importance. When employees feel treated unfairly, their primary outlet is to file a complaint with the EEOC or corresponding state agency or file a lawsuit. That person might quit, which has a cost to any company. That person could also ruin the reputation of the company, both internally and externally. Further, it creates a bad corporate culture.
What are the 9 Traits?
While I encourage you to read Ms. Shea’s article, below are the highlights:
- The investigator is unbiased and ideally doesn’t have extensive, intimate knowledge about all of the personalities involved.
- The investigator doesn’t have a “conflict of interest.”
- The investigator knows how to conduct a workplace investigation.
- The investigator talks to everybody who might know something.
- The investigator knows the difference between a “fact” and a “conclusion,” and knows that “facts” are better.
- The investigator knows to review other evidence as applicable.
- The investigator frequently refers to the company policy while conducting the investigation to make sure he is following it.
- The investigator maintains confidentiality as much as possible.
- The investigator consults with others as needed during the course of the investigation and in determining what happened.
As she mentions in the article, if you are a small to mid-sized company, consider bringing in an outsider to perform the investigation. I’ve done such investigations (and fact finding is a core part of being a mediator) and I hope you will consider using me for such an event. Contact me to discuss further.