When an employee complains about wrongful conduct such as harassment or discrimination, the employer has a legal obligation to investigate. What the investigation will entail depends on the nature of the complaint.
But the courts are abundantly clear that it needs to happen, and fast. “Prompt” and “thorough” are two of the buzzwords here. Not only that, but if a lawsuit ensues, the court will analyze the investigation – including the qualifications and capabilities of the investigator – to ensure it was up to legal snuff. And the sin qua non of a thorough investigation is a neutral, unbiased investigator.
That’s why enlisting the help of an outside investigator is imperative.
Assume for a moment that an employee complains to Human Resources that the CFO sexually harassed her. Further assume that Human Resources reports to the CFO. It would be difficult for the HR Director to conduct the investigation. Even if he or she could set aside any potential bias (say, in favor of keeping his or her job) and conduct an independent investigation, the appearance of partiality is unavoidable. In such a case it would behoove the employer to seek a truly independent investigator. So too if the allegations involve another high-ranking company official or very serious potential misconduct that seems likely to end up in court.
You’ll be glad to know we’ve added independent workplace investigations to our offerings. Our investigators are experienced and highly skilled. So next time there’s a knock on your internal complaint door, just pick up the phone. You can rest easy knowing your workplace investigation is in the hands of the experts.