Workplace investigations can be intimidating. It typically means someone has raised a complaint and as a company, you are responsible for responding to that complaint. The first step, however, is to investigate the complaint. You, as a company, have a responsibility to ensure a fair, thorough investigation to get to the bottom of the complaint. Here’s our approach:
Step 1: Understand the complaint and timing.
Before an investigation can get underway, it’s important to fully understand the content of the complaint. Gather the key stakeholders and make sure you are on the same page before making decisions on proceeding with an investigation.
Read the complaint. This may be overly simplistic but you’d be surprised at how many people fail to actually read the full complaint. If it’s complex, read it multiple times. Be sure you actually understand the extent of the complaint and the details associated with it.
Understand the basis. Make sure you understand if the complaint is alleging a violation or policy, law, or something else. This will inform how you go about your investigation.
Understand company procedures. Make sure you understand internal policies and procedures for investigating complaints. Fully understand these before you begin the investigation – otherwise, you may be creating a headache down the road.
Develop chronology and interview plan. Before the investigation, create a plan and stick to that plan. Failing to create and stick to a plan could result in a chaotic investigation where important details slip through the cracks or mistakes create bias.
Step 2: Gather the information.
As you begin your investigation, make sure you stick to the standard company processes and the plan identified in step 1. You will want to gather documents and information from all available, relevant sources. In addition to documentation, begin scheduling and conducting interviews pursuant to your interview plan.
Step 3: Document the process.
Ultimately, you will be creating a presentable document with your findings. To do that, you will need detailed notes of what you found throughout the investigation process. Create clear, thorough notes during the interviews that you can review later in the process. In addition, you will want to continually be documenting key findings as they occur. As you are documenting the process, you will also want to identify and document supporting documentation and supporting witnesses to statements and key findings. This may result in follow-up interviews. No matter what you are doing, make sure you have a detailed account of your activities and findings at each step of the investigation.
Step 4: Draft the Report
This is when you are putting your findings down on paper. You will want to start but describing the investigation process including documents obtained and interviews conducted and what information came out of those documents and interviews. You will also want to include any credibility factors you took into account in arriving at your key findings and any evidence that supports those findings. Remember that the people reading this report do not have the benefit of having been through the documentation or interviews themselves – include sufficient detail that they fully understand what occurred in the investigation.
Step 5: Present findings to decision makers.
Once your report is complete, you will communicate your findings and the content of the report to the key decision makers. As a part of this, the decision makers will need a plan to implement remedial measures, communicate to the complainant and communicate to others in the company.
If your company is facing a workplace investigation, we can advise you at each step of the way to ensure a fair, complete investigation. Give us a call today for your free consultation.
A Skelly hearing derives its name from Skelly v. State Personnel Board (1975) 15 Cal. 3d 194. Dr. Skelly, a permanent civil service employee, was terminated from his employment with the State of California. The Read more…