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.