When serious allegations of employee misconduct are reported, it is imperative that Management conduct a thorough and unbiased investigation. Allegations of Sexual Harassment, Bullying, Whistleblowing and Retaliation must be taken seriously and addressed immediately. To provide a neutral and unbiased investigation, employers need to utilize the services of an independent investigator. Hertz Legal, employment lawyers for employers serving New York, New Jersey and Connecticut has conducted numerous workplace misconduct investigations. Karen Hertz is an employer attorney for employers serving New York, NJ and Connecticut is also a licensed Private Investigator and has experience in conducting efficient, effective and unbiased workplace investigations.
Case Study: Client, a construction company, was notified that an employee alleged sexual harassment on the job. Client was notified by a foreman and not by the employee alleging the harassment. Hertz Legal conducted a neutral and unbiased investigation into the allegation and found that the conduct was inappropriate.
Sometimes, clients can make mistakes, the issue was dealt with, the harasser was disciplined and the entire staff received prevention training. 12-Step Guide
From allegations of Fraud, Harassment, Embezzlement and other misconduct Hertz Legal uses the following guidelines to ensure a safe, neutral and effective investigation.1. Keep in Mind the Reason for the Investigation:
- Will this action help reveal the truth?
- Will it lead to a strong resolution to the issue?
- Could you defend it in court if the accused challenged you on it?
- Would documentation of this action help you investigate similar occurrences in the future?
A quick response shows the complainant that you’re serious about the investigation and gives the accused fair notice of the allegations. Hertz Legal will review your policies, procedure and employee handbooks prior to commencing an investigation and will make recommendations for updates as the legal climate changes.3. Create an Investigation Strategy
Before Hertz Legal will begin an investigation into employee misconduct, we take note of the following:
- What is the nature of the misconduct?
- What investigation methods should be used?
- What resources should be used for evidence?
- Are there any witnesses? When, how and why should each one be interviewed?
- When should tasks (e.g. evidence collection, interviews, investigation, reporting) be completed?
It is important during an investigation to take appropriate steps to prevent retaliation and further misconduct in the interim. Hertz Legal might recommend a change in an employee’s work hours or area or even ask them to take paid leave.
Remember that if a complainant is involved, only take interim actions that they approve. For the accused employee, you may assign changes to their work conditions. Just make sure you emphasize that these changes are non-disciplinary.5. Protect the Victim/Complainant
You should also strive to protect the complainant, especially in sensitive or violent cases. Hertz Legal advises our clients to offer them support, allow them to take time off, work from home or switch their schedule to reduce contact with the accused person.
It is essential to keep in mind that an Employer should not force them to make changes they don’t want to, as this may be construed as retaliation and/or whistleblower retaliation, depending on the nature of the alleged misconduct.6. Protect the Alleged Wrongdoer
Hertz Legal takes every precaution and advises our clients to keep in mind that the alleged wrongdoer may not be guilty of the alleged wrongdoing and that an investigation must be neutral and unbiased in order to uncover the truth.7. Put it in Writing
Hertz Legal thoroughly documents all notes from our investigations of employee misconduct.
Strong documentation protects your organization in the event of a lawsuit. If you take disciplinary action, even a verbal warning, document what you did and why.8. Keep an Open Door Policy
When Hertz Legal conducts an investiagion of employee misconduct, we are part of your team. We provide regular updates and status reports on the investiation and encourage all employees to communicate in confidence
9. Finally, in the course of our investigation, Hertz Legal will assess credibility and make a determination. The following questions are asked and determined:
- Would the person’s story make sense on its own?
- Did they exhibit verbal or physical signs of deception or truth?
- Is there evidence to corroborate their story?
- Are other interviewees saying the same things?
- Do they have any reason to lie?
- Does the accused /accuser have a history of similar misconduct?