Balance in the workplace investigation process

by on May 5, 2009 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Info Center

Remember, the need for speed must be equalized with the need for thoroughness

No investigation needed?
In some cases, you may decide not to conduct a workplace investigation at all. A serious embezzlement or a drug issue or child pornography is increasingly frequent with the prevalence of computers and wide access to the internet by employees. So in those situations, you may stop before you begin, contact law enforcement and bring them in.

Investigation Balance
In general, when you should conduct a workplace investigation, you have to balance the need for speed against the need for thought. You’re trying to create a record at the end of the day that shows the company was thorough and thoughtful.

If you act too quickly, you run the risk that just the sequence of the timing will make somebody later think, “Gosh, they couldn’t have thought very much about this at all.”

You can’t wait forever. The general rules of thumb is you have to be thorough. It has to be balanced by the concern for confidentiality. That is there’s a temptation that some folks fall into to interview anybody whoever might possibly have had anything to do with the subject.

If you are that thorough, chances are, the workplace investigation will not be as confidential as you want it to be and you run the risk of tipping off lots of folks that you don’t want to have know about the issue.

It needs to be prompt but you have to balance the need for speed against not rushing to judgment and not missing things and following up as appropriate.

You need to be deliberate and thoughtful but you can’t drag it out forever. You can’t draw out making a decision for an undue length of time. Close out the workplace invetigation for the benefit of the person who raised the issue, for the benefit of the company and for the benefit of all the people who are interviewed as witnesses.

Interim solutions to workplace issues
Often at the very beginning, consider interim preliminary measures such as separating an alleged victim of harassment and the alleged harasser for example or suspending someone with or without pay. If you suspend somebody with pay during the workplace investigation, it is a lot more difficult for him or her to allege retaliation. If you suspend somebody without pay, then that may run the risk of a retaliation case under the Burlington Northern decision.

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