When documenting workplace investigations, only the facts

by on May 4, 2009 · 0 Comment POSTED IN: HR Info Center

Avoid getting tripped up by your own words

When you document the results of an internal workplace investigation, state the facts and only the facts. Saying too much can cost you in court, as this case shows.

Supervisor broke the law

A municipal employee said her supervisor retaliated against her for making a employee complaint. HR investigated and concluded the supervisor had violated “…City, state and federal law, as well as agency policy.”

Turns out HR was wrong about the law violations and the employee’s attorney tried to use the memo against the employer in court. Fortunately for the employer, the judge didn’t allow the memo to be included as evidence, calling it too prejudicial.

However, HR’s blunder prevented the employer from getting the case dismissed through summary judgment. And it also provided valuable fodder for the plaintiff to use in settlement negotiations.

According to attorneys at the law firm of Jackson Lewis, during a workplace investigation, report just the facts. Never, ever, draw a legal conclusion.

Instead of saying the supervisor broke the law, the investigator should have said he “violated company policy.”

That way, HR could admit the boss did something inappropriate (for which he was disciplined) without suggesting it was more than an internal workplace investigation requiring resolution through the courts.

Source: Jackson Lewis. HR 3.2

Leave a Reply


Request a Free Demo

We'd love to show you how this industry-leading training system can help you develop your team. Please fill out this quick form or give us a call at 877-792-2172 to schedule your one-on-one demo with a Rapid Learning Specialist.