Problems can arise during employee complaint investigation

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

Two examples of thorny issues encountered in employee complaint investigations

Representation by a lawyer during employee complaint investigations
A nonunion employee is accused of sexual harassment of a verbal nature and that person demands to have his lawyer present during the employee complaint investigation interview. Are you legally required to allow it?

It depends on the law where you are so you should consult with counsel.

Should you do it even if it’s not legally required? Depending on those circumstances and if you want to avoid the appearance of duress or a coerced confession, maybe you should allow for representation during an employee complaint investigation.

And may you take disciplinary action against the employee for requesting representation? Hopefully, your uniform reaction is no. That is kind of a protected request whether or not you honor it and you shouldn’t retaliate against somebody for having at least requested representation.

Criminal computer use
An employee complains to Human Resources that a coworker is looking at pornographic images of children on his computer. What is the first thing you should do?

Well, you should quarantine the computer. Take it, lock it and don’t touch it until you’ve most likely called the authorities and told them what you have and they will come and take it from there.

What shouldn’t you do, you shouldn’t start doing your own workplace investigation on that computer. You shouldn’t start looking at the Internet log or anything else because what you do then could be viewed as tampering with the evidence and preclude or make it difficult for a criminal prosecution against the individual who is doing this.

The same procedure applies not just to this type of issue but any issue involving a computer. Remember that when you start searching around on a computer, you’re actually altering the data on the computer, altering the logs of activity and you may not want to do that.

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