When your organization receives an employee complaint of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation, you have a legal duty to conduct a prompt, thorough, and impartial investigation and take proper action to end the misconduct.
While some investigations can be done internally by the HR or legal department, organizations should hire an outside workplace investigator for the following situations:
- Involvement of a High-Level Employee
It may be impossible for employee investigators to question or conclude that their senior executives engaged in misconduct for fear of retaliation. This goes without saying for any CEO, President, Executive Director, or Board of Directors role.
Even if the employee investigator correctly determines there is no workplace misconduct, the investigation will likely be perceived as a “sham” because people will believe the investigator could not make a finding against a senior executive.
Outside investigators can question anyone and make unbiased findings and recommendations without fear of reprisal.
- Perceived or Actual Bias
When an internal investigator has previous knowledge or interactions with the parties or witnesses, bias may be present. Even if the investigator can remain objective, as noted above, the perception may be that the investigation was not impartial.
Investigations should ideally be conducted by someone with no previous knowledge of the situation and no prior relationship with the parties or witnesses involved.
- Anticipation of Litigation
If an employee has hired a lawyer or filed a complaint with the EEOC or similar state agency, or discussed pursuing litigation, you need to take extra steps to ensure that the investigation is conducted thoroughly and with the utmost impartiality by an experienced outside investigator.
Additionally, the investigator needs to be a credible witness for the company if the complaint ends in court. If your own attorney performs the investigation, they can no longer represent you.
- Ongoing Workplace Issues
When multiple complaints arise, it likely indicates a bigger problem than one bad apple.
This situation may require the time and expertise of an outside investigator who is knowledgeable about employment matters, can make recommendations about the need for training, and recommend broad policy and procedural changes for the organization.
- Better Optics and Outcome.
A belief in a fair and objective investigation and conclusion is critical to stakeholder trust and employee morale. Employees who see their complaints being taken seriously and handled fairly may be less likely to pursue costly litigation.
Hiring an outside investigator demonstrates a commitment to taking complaints seriously and finding solutions to improve the workplace.
For complaints and investigation needs, HR ROI provides experienced investigators with law backgrounds who will handle your most serious workplace issues and problems with care. We also have two trained mediators on our staff to provide a collaborative resolution for all stakeholders. We’ll work together to keep all parties safe and minimize disruption to your operations.