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Guidelines for Preparing a Workplace Investigation

March 10, 2008

In developing a Workplace Investigation Plan, at a minimum, the employer should:

1. Identify all potential witnesses

● Take the Complaint

- Why, where, who, witnesses, documentation
- Explain limited confidentiality
- Explain no retaliation
- Be objective, not judgmental
- Communicate a realistic timetable
- Do not promise complete confidentiality
- Consider interim protective measures if necessary
- Instill confidence in the process and assure them they make the correct choice in utilizing it

● Interview the Accused

- Present the allegations
- Allow opportunity for rebuttal
- Observe and evaluate responses
- Ask for reasons complaining party would have to lie
- Advise of the possibility of discipline
- Assure the accused no conclusions will be reached until the investigation is completed
- Warn against retaliation
- Follow union contract and other special rules if accused is represented by a union
- Treat the accused with respect and dignity
- Perform follow-up interviews as needed

2. Identify the documents to be reviewed

3. Prepare the strategy to address the needs and goals of the investigation

4. Interview the witnesses

● Prepare for the interviews
● Give thought to location of the interviews and timing
● Review witness personnel files
● Review other relevant documentation (e.g., emails, production records, reports,good timesheets, expense reimbursement records, telephone records, etc.)
● Beware of motives and biases

5. Establish a secure system of organizing and maintaining files and records

6. Review the plan regularly and adapt it to meet any changes that arise

7. Determine appropriate remedial action

● Do you have the whole story?
● Do the facts stand up?
● Was the investigation thorough?
● Was there a violation of the employer’s policy?
● Was the conduct criminal?
● Administer appropriate discipline (consider the conduct, consider past practice, work rules, employee handbook, etc.)
● Does the punishment fit the crime?

8. Communicate the result to the appropriate persons

● Follow-up with victim
● Report criminal conduct to the authorities
● Follow-up with witnesses as appropriate

9. Prepare appropriate documentation

● Take copious notes
● Consider written statements or affidavits
● Consider recorded statements
● Maintain confidentiality safeguards

Information courtesy of:
What Every Business Manager and HR Professional Should Know About Federal Labor and Employment Laws


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