How to conduct witness interviews during a corporate investigation?

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

The three techniques for witness interviews during a corporate investigation

Set the proper tone
The tone of witness interviews in a corporate investigation is just as important as your questions or your techniques that you are using. You want to have the location be in a private place where the witness feels safe but not threatened, in a place not where there’s a lock on the door that make them feel that they’re being stuck in a room and they have no opportunity to leave.

Many witnesses are concerned about intimidation or retaliation from coworkers and don’t want to be interviewed during a corporate investigation. Interviews should be held in a location where people don’t realize they’re being interviewed and where they’re secure. So location can be very, very important.

Two employer reps
Companies need to have two representatives during a corporate investigation interview. The reason for that is you don’t have a swearing contest at the end of the interview where the employee says, “They cursed and swore at me and berated me” when in fact that didn’t happen. Having two company representatives there really helps deter that type of accusation.

Employee representation
The employee may have the right to have somebody with them, the right to representation. That becomes really important in a criminal situation. Let’s say the facts go in a direction, which suggests to you that that employee needs their own lawyer to defend them in a criminal situation. You may just want to stop the interview, call a halt to it, advise the employee that they really need to go get their own lawyer and resume the corporate investigation once the lawyer is on the scene.

It has to be determined on a case-by-case basis. In many cases, the lawyer for the employee will be quite cooperative because they will try to be saving the individual’s job and try to bring forth evidence that shows the person is not involved in criminal activity. In other situations, they can be obstructive and it all depends on the circumstances. But that is a twist that sometimes these issues take.

Sometimes you may be required to have union representative there or a coworker. It’s really almost as much for the company’s benefit to show that the corporate investigation was indeed fair and that the employee was not in an intimidating environment and was not pressured to say things they didn’t think were truthful.

So even if the law requires you to have a third party there, don’t feel so bad about it. If the law does not require you to have a third party there, you may want to do it anyway depending on how serious the issue is to create a record that the employee was not coerced.

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