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:

  1. The investigator is unbiased and ideally doesn’t have extensive, intimate knowledge about all of the personalities involved.
  2. The investigator doesn’t have a “conflict of interest.”
  3. The investigator knows how to conduct a workplace investigation.
  4. The investigator talks to everybody who might know something.
  5. The investigator knows the difference between a “fact” and a “conclusion,” and knows that “facts” are better.
  6. The investigator knows to review other evidence as applicable.
  7. The investigator frequently refers to the company policy while conducting the investigation to make sure he is following it.
  8. The investigator maintains confidentiality as much as possible.
  9. 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.