Employment Practices Group (EPG) provides internal investigation services to public and private companies, municipalities, non-profit organizations, educational institutions, and other employers in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and throughout the country.
What is an Internal Investigation?
An internal investigation is a fact-finding inquiry into a complaint of sexual harassment or other form of unlawful harassment, discrimination, retaliation, misuse of company property, illegal conduct, employee theft or fraud, or any other type of workplace misconduct. Often, the law requires that a prompt and thorough investigation take place. Other times, it’s just a matter of good and necessary business practices.
Investigations must be performed by someone who is skilled at soliciting the appropriate information, questioning the right individuals, identifying key issues, and knowing any legal obligations such as documentation, confidentiality, and retaliation. The investigator must delicately handle the process in a non-threatening but appropriate manner, while simultaneously respecting the rights of all involved.
When conducting internal investigations, EPG provides these services:
- Ensures that you respond appropriately to the complaining party at the inception of the complaint.
- Conducts an investigation that is prompt, thorough, and consistent with the United States Supreme Court mandate (in discrimination and harassment matters).
- Makes certain that no witnesses are overlooked during the investigation process.
- Researches the appropriate background information about the incident, the persons involved and their working relationships, and business environment.
- Records sufficient and appropriate information during the witness interviews, after eliciting this information from all witnesses in an objective and sensitive manner.
- Prepares contemporaneous documentation as the investigation proceeds, ensuring that all the elements that contribute to a valid written record are included.
- Reaches factual and not legal conclusions as to whether inappropriate behavior occurred that may violate internal policies.
- Offers recommendations on discipline or other remedial measures, where appropriate.
- Testifies as a witness at trial and at depositions that its retention and work-product were an integral part of the organization’s expeditious and decisive action to curb any harassment or other misconduct that may have occurred in the workplace.
Why use a Professional Investigator instead of Human Resources?
In rulings released in 1998 and 1999, the United States Supreme Court gave employers a chance to escape legal liability for sexual harassment in certain circumstances if they can show that they took immediate steps to "correct promptly" any such behavior in the workplace. The same principles hold true in other types of harassment and discrimination cases. Accordingly, in many instances, an employer’s liability will turn on how it handles a complaint.
Oftentimes, a Human Resource professional is not the right person to investigate allegations of misconduct for the following reasons:
- HR may be unavailable to put the investigation as the number one priority work assignment due to other pending projects or scheduling conflicts.
- HR may lack the experience and skill to handle the issue.
- HR may recognize that the risks are too high to handle in-house.
- HR may find itself in the chain of command of either the complaining party or accused, or otherwise be perceived as having a bias.
- HR may be below the person accused on the organizational chart, thereby creating a conflict and bias problem.
Using an outside impartial professional ensures that the matter is dealt with quickly, effectively, and in accordance with the law. Specifically, your organization ensures that:
- The complaining party knows that you are taking the allegation seriously.
- The accused is confident that you are not pre-judging what may have happened and are respecting his or her rights--as well as those of the alleged victim.
- Confidentiality and integrity are maintained during the investigative process.
- Conclusions are reached that are completely independent and unbiased.
- Your internal policies and procedures, as well as federal and state guidelines, are followed.
- The investigation, from start to finish, will be conducted following best employment practices, so as to minimize legal liability.
- You have demonstrated your organization's attempt to "correct promptly" reported misconduct.
Benefit from Experienced, Professional Investigation Services
If your organization seeks to proactively address and resolve an employee complaint, please contact Employment Practice Group to learn more about conducting a thorough, discreet internal investigation.
Some situations require an outside investigator. For example, when conducting internal investigations of alleged discrimination or other serious misconduct regarding officers and senior executives, there is great value in using a qualified, discreet, outside investigator who is also an employment attorney. Julie Moore fulfills all of these requirements.
As General Counsel for UNICCO Service Company, I engaged Julie Moore as an investigator several years ago on a matter involving credible allegations against a peer of mine on the Operating Committee. Human Resources could not handle the matter because of conflicts of interest. If I had directly conducted the investigation and it resulted in exoneration, it might have been perceived by the complainants and other employees as a biased finding. Additionally, regardless o outcome, I would have risked being called as a witness in any later litigation, an experience no in-house counsel wants to risk. UNICCO’s preferred outside employment counsel could not directly conduct the investigation for the same reasons.
Julie Moore proved to be a very effective investigator. Her relaxed, empathic style of interview put people at their ease and she gained a great deal of information from difficult witnesses. Just as importantly, she was unafraid to make credibility assessment about the testimony of conflicting witnesses, a critical judgment skill. Her evidence summaries and findings were well reasoned and documented, and this made it easy for me to persuade senior leadership to adopt her conclusions and take appropriate action.
I had the opportunity to work closely with Julie recently on a complex internal investigation for one of my clients, a large, world-wide health care company. I found Julie to be responsive, diligent, knowledgeable and skilled in interviewing witnesses, requesting relevant documentation, and assimilating the information she learned. She communicated closely with me and in-house corporate counsel during every stage of the investigation so that we were fully apprised of developments as they occurred. She gained the confidence and trust of the witnesses and was able to quickly digest the information, make credibility determinations that were supported by the facts, and determine whether or not policy violations occurred. I gained great respect for Julie's abilities, common sense approach, and good judgment. I find her to be an extremely seasoned investigator who understands the issues, is devoted to the mission of finding the facts, and understands the business climate and the need for practical solutions and appropriate remedial or corrective action at the end of an investigation.
I am corporate counsel to a large organization in New Hampshire, which consists of multiple locations, led by an Executive Director and overseen by a Board of Trustees. At my direction, the organization retained Julie Moore to conduct an independent investigation into the allegations and provide advice and counsel to the Board following the investigation. This was a particularly sensitive matter, as the Executive Director was a prominent member of the community, and he enjoyed a solid reputation in the industry. The stakes were high. Julie handled the matter with the highest degree of discretion, sensitivity and competence. The investigation spanned 6 months, and Julie generated a 100+ page report of all the factual findings. Julie was able to distill and analyze the claims that were raised and recommend changes in the scope of the investigation as new facts became known. I was particularly impressed with this insight, as we trusted Julie to guide through the myriad of serious allegations that threatened the livelihood of the organization.
Julie [Moore] investigated a particularly complicated personnel (ADD) issue for us several months ago. Numerous staff members were interviewed, and a lengthy prior investigation was also involved. Julie conducted her investigation with great thoroughness while using great discretion to protect the privacy of those involved. We were impressed with her perceptiveness of the issues and personalities, her diligence and commitment to the investigation, her attention to detail, and her incisive report distilling a wealth of detail into clear findings and rational conclusions.
Julie Moore is uniquely qualified and situated to assist companies with their internal investigation needs. Ms. Moore demonstrates a strong working knowledge of the employment law area, which I believe is of significant benefit as it allows her to identify important facts and issues from both a legal and operational perspective. Her experience as a litigator enables her to understand the importance of a thorough and properly documented investigation. My experience with Julie Moore tells me that she is diligent, persevering, responsive and articulate. She seems unafraid to reach factual conclusions in investigations, and I have felt comfortable with her conclusions that I have read, as they were based upon findings of fact, as opposed to speculation or instinct.
I have found Attorney Moore to be highly capable. She conducted thorough investigations for the Town of Natick and City of Springfield in an independent, thoughtful manner. She is tough but empathetic, a valuable combination when conducting her work. Attorney Moore's investigative findings have been clear, detailed and concise. Public sector organizations are highly regulated and subject to significant scrutiny. Attorney Moore's investigations maintained complete confidentiality and provided executive leadership with the information required to make appropriate decisions in both Natick and Springfield.