People who are employed in human resources may be called upon to perform a workplace investigation from time to time. Many people are apprehensive about conducting an investigation that may involve their employer and their colleagues. This reluctance is only natural, considering that the outcome can have a significant impact on the workplace. Nonetheless, the necessity for properly conducting an investigation is paramount in order to limit the employer’s liability in the event of a lawsuit and to institute important changes to the way employees are treated in the workplace.
When Is a Workplace Investigation Necessary?
The law often dictates when an inquiry must be made. Some employers will decide to look into all complaints whether the law requires it or not. Essentially, whenever an employee makes a complaint concerning harassment, reports missing money or equipment, or informs management about an accident, it is likely that an investigation must occur.
Impartiality Is Key
Recent court decisions underline the fact that workplace investigations must be impartial. A judge for an age discrimination case found that the plaintiff’s former employer conducted a lopsided investigation that did not include any input from the employee. Accordingly, the company’s report of the incident was viewed harshly by the judge and probably figured in the $4.1 million judgment that was awarded to the plaintiff.
Never Ignore Complaints
While all complaints do not warrant a full investigation, it is essential that all complaints be taken seriously. Failing to do so simply leads to bigger headaches. It may be possible to head off litigation by being proactive.
The investigator must look for any documentation that will support both sides of the workplace investigation. It is equally important to document and preserve all witness interviews and steps taken. This can benefit either party, particularly if litigation becomes involved.
If you have questions about employment law, Daniel C. Miller can help. Contact us in Missouri at (816) 875-0470 or Kansas at (913) 624-9646 to learn more, or fill out our online contact form with a brief description of your legal issue.