When is it good to have an independent investigation into workplace conduct?
When an employee files a harassment claim or other type of grievance against you as an employer, the last thing you want is for that employee to feel like their story won’t be heard. That’s why many employers choose to contract with third-party investigator firms during the investigation process.
These independent investigators help gain the trust of the complainant while also helping to objectively uncover the truth in your organization. When used effectively, an independent investigation can not only serve to protect your business from damage but also strengthen it long-term.
If you’re currently facing any workplace conflicts that could lead to a grievance or lawsuit, read on for more information about when it’s good to have an independent investigation into workplace conduct.
What is an independent investigator?
An independent investigator is a third party who is contracted by your organization to conduct a workplace investigation. Typically, this person will usually be a lawyer or private investigator who is not employed by the organization itself.
This type of investigator is useful when there are conflicting accounts between parties in a dispute, or when your company would like to conduct a more thorough investigation than would be appropriate for in-house HR. Depending on the length of the investigation and the type of situation, costs can range from a few hundred to as many as $1,000 per day.
Why is an independent investigation important?
An independent investigation gives a complainant more confidence that their story will be heard and handled appropriately. In some cases, the independent investigator may be the only person who speaks to all parties involved in the investigation. This can help ensure that the investigation is conducted in a fair, unbiased way, without the potential for partiality on the part of the employer.
Depending on the nature of the investigation, it can also provide an opportunity to make amends with employees who feel wronged by the organization. Employers can use the investigation process to make a sincere effort to right the wrong and show that they’re taking the complaint seriously. This is particularly important when an investigation centres on sexual harassment complaints.
Employees who feel the organization hasn’t taken their grievance seriously may be more likely to choose legal action over an informal complaint process. An independent investigation can help alleviate these concerns by making it clear that the organization is willing to take the necessary steps to make things right.
When you shouldn’t have an independent investigation
There may be rare occasions when an investigation is not warranted. For example, if an employee files a complaint that is trivial or frivolous, an investigation may be a waste of time and resources for both parties. Similarly, if an employee’s complaint is more serious but doesn’t include a specific accusation against a specific person, an investigation may be equally unhelpful.
In these cases, an investigation may be a good option for gathering more information, but it’s important to recognize that an investigation cannot solve the problem if there are no specific individuals or actions to investigate.
How to choose the right investigator?
When choosing an investigator, you should always be sure to select someone who is independent. Ideally, this person should also have a proven track record of conducting fair and thorough investigations.
It’s also important to consider the investigator’s availability and cost. Depending on the type of investigation, the investigator may need to travel between multiple offices or interview multiple employees. This can add up quickly, so it’s important to choose an investigator who can meet your needs while remaining within budget.
It’s also important to consider the investigator’s level of discretion when conducting the investigation. This can help ensure that the investigation is conducted as privately as possible, minimising the chances of word getting out prematurely.
While workplace investigations can be stressful for all parties involved, having an independent investigation can help ensure that all concerns are taken seriously. It’s important to remember, however, that an investigation is not a substitute for appropriate workplace policies and procedures. If you have any concerns about the effectiveness of your company’s sexual harassment policies, now is the time to address them.
Jolasers have vast experience conducting workplace investigations including sexual harassment investigations.