Conducting Investigations of Internal Complaints.
Internal investigations can be one of the most difficult and challenging tasks that an employer is ever likely to face. Conducting investigations of internal complaints of discrimination and harassment is one of the most important jobs for employers to undertake.
These investigations are also often rife with legal risks and potential liability. An investigation of an employee’s internal complaint can have serious implications for the company, its employees, and its ability to maintain a safe work environment.
An improper or unprofessional investigation can lead to lawsuits by any involved parties, including the employee who made the complaint in the first place. That’s why it’s crucial for every company—big or small, public or private—to understand how to handle these sensitive matters properly from start to finish.
What is an internal investigation?
An internal investigation is the process by which a company looks into and assesses an employee’s claim of discrimination or harassment. The goal of the investigation is to determine whether the employee’s complaint is legitimate.
A company’s decision on how to conduct an internal investigation will likely depend on the type of complaint being made, the number of employees being investigated, the nature of the complaint itself, and the company’s resources and culture.
An investigation might include taking statements from witnesses, interviewing the parties involved, and combing through documentation and data to determine whether a violation has occurred.
When are internal investigations required?
Employers are required to conduct an investigation into an employee’s complaint if it involves discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex (including sexual harassment, pregnancy, and breastfeeding), national origin, age, disability, genetic information, veteran status, and/or other protected characteristics.
The complaint could be made verbally or in writing, but investigations can only be formally initiated after a written complaint is received.
Defining the scope of an internal investigation
The scope of an investigation should be defined in writing and should include the date by which it will be completed. The scope should also include the types of individuals who will be interviewed, relevant documentation to be reviewed, and other factors (such as the geographic location of employees being investigated) that will be included in the investigation.
When investigators are assigned to a complaint, they should be informed of the scope of their investigation.
Investigating a discrimination or harassment complaint
In general, employers must investigate an alleged incident of discrimination or harassment promptly and thoroughly. The investigation should be designed to determine whether discrimination or harassment has occurred.
If an investigation reveals that discrimination or harassment has occurred, it should be stopped immediately and appropriate corrective action taken. If the investigation reveals that discrimination or harassment has not occurred, the company must communicate the results of the investigation and take appropriate action to protect against future discrimination or harassment.
The results of an internal investigation can have serious implications for the company, its employees, and its ability to maintain a safe work environment.
An improper or unprofessional investigation can lead to lawsuits by any involved parties, including the employee who made the complaint in the first place.
That’s why it’s crucial for every company—big or small, public or private—to understand how to handle these sensitive matters properly from start to finish. Ultimately, the goal of any investigation should be to produce a result that’s fair to everyone involved. Appropriate action should be taken in response to any violations that are discovered, and employees who are not in violation should not be subject to disciplinary or corrective action as a result of the investigation.
For more info visit our dedicated workplace investigations pages