An employee has approached you to complain that another employee has been harassing her during and after working hours. You have now been put on notice of a serious situation. What do you do? Where do you start?
First, you will need to assess how extensive or formal an investigation should be. The above scenario would definitely need to have a formal investigation conducted. Therefore, you must take into consideration the importance of discretion when moving forward, taking quick action on how you will approach the investigation and paying attention to detail when conducting the investigation. Being prepared from the very beginning is critical in successfully and fairly administering the interviews and developing a final report.
How to Conduct an Employee Investigation in 5 Simple Steps
Following these simple steps will assist you in navigating the highly sensitive process of employee investigations.
- Determine if a problem exists. This is actually an essential step. There are situations where there is just a miscommunication or two people just can’t get along. Have the accuser provide you with a signed written statement that clearly outlines what is the perceived issue.
- Select who will investigate the issue. Depending on the gravity of the issue, or who is involved, you may elect to have a third party conduct the actual investigation. By doing so you can avoid any issues of bias and in many instances the parties involved tend to more readily accept the third party’s conclusion then that of the internal investigator.
- Prepare for the investigation.
• Script out questions to stay on track for the complainant, the subject being accused and the witnesses. Also important in navigating any investigation is consistent practices. Treat each person being interviewed with fairness to avoid any discrimination claims and help avoid any future claims of impropriety.
• Ensure the complainant, witnesses and accused are told that no conclusions have been reached and that is why you are carrying out this investigation.
• Gather information so the determination is based upon facts and not perception, hearsay or speculation. Make sure you keep your opinions to yourself and do not interject them during the interviewing process.
• Conduct follow-up interviews, if needed. If you find wholes in some of the information you have received, by all means re-interview individuals to gain more insight so a sound decision can be made based on actual facts.
- Evaluate all the documentation gathered and DOCUMENT. Review all the information you have gathered in order to prepare your final report. You should consider incorporating your employment attorney to review your documentation to ensure you are adhering to all laws and policies.
- Prepare the investigative report. The final report should summarize the incident or issue investigated, as well as outline the process used in the investigation, any recommendations for remedying the situation, and a list of those interviewed for the investigation. Make sure your documentation is clear, concise, and is filed separately.
Remember, being prepared, clear documentation and consistency with your approach will go a long way in fairly resolving issues before they surmount into something bigger.