When issues regarding safety, harassment or discrimination arise in a business, employers may need to conduct a workplace investigation. An employer’s failure to conduct a proper investigation can make an already complicated situation much worse for an organization and trigger harsh penalties.
If you are in a situation where a workplace investigation is required, consider the following tips for conducting one fairly and effectively.
In any workplace investigation, overlooking details or ignoring complaints can lead to problems for employers. Employers must be thorough when conducting the investigation, which means:
- Addressing every single complaint
- Talking to all witnesses
- Keeping records of all interactions
- Collecting all relevant evidence
- Scrutinizing contracts and other legal paperwork
Regardless of the type of investigator (internal or external professional investigator), investigators should be diligent and detailed. If there are gaps in the investigation, employers could wind up facing costly consequences.
Don’t be disruptive
Issues that trigger a workplace investigation can be highly sensitive. You may be dealing with workers who are hurt, angry or fearful, and there is often money and jobs on the line. Ensuring the investigation is respectful and professional is critical. If your investigation is disruptive or insensitive, it could expose you to negative publicity and allegations of misconduct.
With this in mind, you can prioritize confidentiality or anonymity within reason. Certain information will need to be shared or included as part of the record, but disclosing details that are not relevant to the issue at hand is not helpful. Keeping the process itself structured and organized can help minimize disruption.
Address the outcome appropriately
Once the investigation comes to a close, the findings dictate the next steps. The options could include the following:
- Revising workplace policies
- Making corrective payments
- Enforcing penalties
- Reprimanding or terminating an employee
- Decisions issued by the Director of Employment Standards
Whatever the results of a workplace investigation are, it is important that the findings are delivered to the parties involved in a timely manner. It can also be essential to act quickly in carrying out the recommendations or fulfilling agreements reached through the investigation.
If you have any questions about workplace investigations, an experienced legal British Columbia employment lawyer can answer your concerns.