Effective internal workplace investigations
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Effective Internal Workplace Investigations - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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Effective Internal Workplace Investigations. Best Practices. Acknowledgements. Sexual Harassment Investigations: How to Limit Your liability and More – a Practical Guide Arjun P. Aggarwal and Madhu M. Gupta. 2004. Email [email protected]

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  • Sexual Harassment Investigations: How to Limit Your liability and More – a Practical Guide

  • Human Resources Guide to Managing Workplace Harassment

    • Barry Kuretzky and Jennifer MacKenzie. 2003. www.canadalawbook.ca

  • Workplace Respect Toolkit

    • Construction Owners Association of Alberta. May 2005

My mandate
My Mandate

  • What triggers an investigation?

  • What types of events warrant an investigation?

  • How does one begin conducting an investigation?

  • Who needs to be interviewed?

  • What confidentiality issues are present and how should they be addressed?

Why is an investigation necessary
Why Is An Investigation Necessary?

  • Performance and productivity

    • Swift resolution of conflict

  • “Walks the talk”

    • builds credibility/trust in the Respect in the Workplace Policy

  • Protects the corporation against liability

    • when done effectively

Faulty investigations
Faulty Investigations

  • An employer’s worst nightmare

  • Liability

    • Civil suits

    • Human rights complaints

What triggers an investigation
What Triggers An Investigation?

  • Someone makes a complaint

    • Offended person

    • Third party (an observer)

    • Verbal report

    • Written report

  • Treat every complaint seriously

    • Informal process

    • Formal process

Interim action
Interim Action

  • Determine if interim action is necessary

    • Separation of the parties

  • Key considerations

    • Complainant’s wishes

    • Severity of the allegations

Choosing between informal and formal processes
Choosing Between Informal And Formal Processes

  • Consider the nature and severity of the conduct at issue

  • Every complaint does not require a full-fledged formal investigation

  • Whenever appropriate/possible, informal processes preferred

Informal processes
Informal Processes

  • Less stressful for everyone

  • Quicker, more flexible, involves fewer people

  • Best option for“win-win” for all

    • Mutually satisfactory outcome for both

  • Appropriate for low level concerns

  • Wide range of strategies

    • Reasonable expectation that the action taken will resolve the problem

  • Voluntary

Factors pointing to a formal process
Factors Pointing To A Formal Process

  • Previous complaints against the same person

  • Person has received previous warnings

  • Alleged conduct is particularly serious

  • Evidence of or serious concern about retaliation

Factors pointing to a formal process continued
Factors Pointing To A Formal Process Continued …

  • May be the only way to protect a person unfairly accused

  • May be the only way to put an end to a complaint for a person who is unable to “let go and move on”

Key principles underlying an effective process
Key Principles Underlying an Effective Process

  • Competent investigator

  • Procedural fairness

  • Timeliness

  • Thoroughness

  • Support for persons involved

  • Confidentiality

  • Documentation

Choosing the investigator
Choosing the Investigator

  • Options

    • A single person

    • A team of two

    • A committee of three

  • Internal or external

  • Time and the skills to do the job effectively

The investigator
The Investigator

  • Competent

    • Trained and experienced

    • Neutral and objective

    • Good writing skills

    • Capacity to act as a good witness in the case of a subsequent proceeding

  • Fact-finder

    • What happened?

    • Did this result in a breach of policy?

Investigator s responsibilities
Investigator’s Responsibilities

  • Analyze the allegations

  • Develop an investigative plan

  • Interview all parties (in person)

    • Written signed statements

  • Keep the complainant and respondent informed of the progress of the investigation

  • Review all relevant documentation

  • Analyze the information gathered

  • Prepare a written report

Essentials of procedural fairness
Essentials of Procedural Fairness

  • No bias

  • Respondent informed of the complaint and given a full opportunity to respond to all allegations

    • Copy of the written complaint

    • Time to consider response

    • Right to representation

      • Union representative

      • May want legal counsel (who pays?)

      • Other

  • No disciplinary action taken before the investigation is concluded

Timely response
Timely Response

  • Prompt action is essential

  • No clear definition of how to define “prompt action”

  • If possible, upon receipt of the complaint or at least within 24 hours

    • May not be realistic

  • Concluded as soon as possible

    • Without compromising thoroughness


  • Avoid promises of absolute confidentiality

    • Confidentiality does not equal anonymity

    • Will be maintained to the extent possible

  • Only those who need to know

    • Relevant supervisory personnel

    • Respondent

    • Witnesses

      • Name of complainant

      • Information provided becomes part of investigation report

      • Report may be subject to disclosure under certain proceedings

Location of the interviews
Location of the Interviews

  • Impact on confidentiality

  • Impact on the comfort levels of the interviewees

  • Preferably away from the worksite

    • Conference room of nearby hotel

    • Office of the external investigator


  • Every step documented

    • All telephone calls, meetings, documents reviewed

  • Final report

    • Describes the investigative process

    • Summarizes all of the evidence

    • Reaches a conclusion on the merits of the complaint

    • Draft shared with both parties prior to being finalized

      • Sometimes decided not appropriate to share the full report

      • If so, provide parties with general conclusions of the investigation

Dealing with the aftermath
Dealing with the Aftermath

  • Rumours and gossip not uncommon

    • May need to set the record straight

    • Essential to be mindful of the personal information and sensitivities of the parties affected

  • Negative impact on employee morale and productivity

    • May need some form of intervention at the unit level