Conducting Proper Workplace Investigations
1. The first is often referred to as a just cause investigation. This is typically associated with determining whether some form of employee misconduct has occurred.
2. The second type relates to human rights matters. In this regard, employers are called upon to investigate allegations that some form of harassment or discrimination relating to company policy or the Human Rights Code has occurred.
3. The third category relates to psychological harassment or bullying.
4. The final category is a catch all that can relate to any other aspect of alleged wrongdoing or improper behaviour in the workplace.
The Importance of Investigations
Employers have many important legislative and regulatory responsibilities when it comes to effectively managing the workplace and the workforce. These include responsibilities for safety, health, human rights and positive employee relations, to mention but a few. When a serious incident or allegation arises, the employer must get to the bottom of the matter in a thorough manner as quickly as possible. Employers must get the facts and determine what steps or actions may be necessary to correct or remedy the situation.
Failure to Investigate
Employees expect their employer to maintain order and harmony in the workplace. Employees also expect their employer to take prompt action to deal with serious allegations and complaints. If a complaint or allegation is not investigated in a timely manner, employees may start to lose confidence that their employer is really interested in their wellbeing. Employees who feel that their employer doesn’t care may quickly become disengaged or dissatisfied resulting in possible turnover. In more severe circumstances, employees may take matters into their own hands which could result in workplace conflict or even violence.
Conducting Routine Investigations
Employers can and should undertake investigations into routine workplace matters on their own. Often the Human Resources department or other management staff can be called upon to investigate routine matters. In most instances, internal investigations are conducted quite adequately.
The Value of External Investigators
External investigators bring a non-biased approach to the situation. They are not encumbered by the day-to-day relationships that are a part of every organization. They can start with a clean slate and are not be burdened by personalities and organizational politics. External investigators work outside the organization structure and do not have to worry whether their findings will be popular or not. They bring objectivity and a perception of objectivity that will increase the confidence of all parties involved. Also, employees will often share information with external investigators that they would not share with internal staff.
When to Use External Investigators
External investigators should be used when the organization does not have the resources to conduct and conclude a timely investigation, where complex allegations arise or when allegations involve senior employees. When allegations may lead to serious consequences or possible external challenges an external investigator is essential to the process. Finally, an external investigator should be utilized where recurring allegations arise.
A Final Thought
Regardless of whether an investigation is conducted by internal or external resources, the quest is the same: the investigator’s role is to seek the truth without fear or favour.
About the author
Mike A. Cuma
Mike A. Cuma is Partner and Vice President of Labour Relations and Human Resources consulting with Legacy Bowes Group. He can be reached at email@example.com://
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