Today, investigating complaints and concerns is a complex process which entails the potential for both organizational and legal difficulties. Done well, it can expose and address issues, and set the stage for their resolution. Done badly, it can be a landmine which explodes and causes widespread and expensive damage.
Daphne Schneider has conducted numerous investigations, ranging from formal complaints of sexual and racial harassment, to informal rumors and concerns. She has been retained by employers, attorneys and insurance providers, and her fair, impartial and confidential work has garnered respect from management and union alike.
Harassment, Discrimination, Hostile Workplace and Misconduct Investigations
It is clear to most employers that complaints of sex, race, age and other workplace harassment, discrimination and hostility issues must be investigated, as must issues of employee misconduct. However, it is not always clear whether it is best to investigate these with in-house personnel, or to bring in an outside investigator. Here are some points to help you decide.
Use an inside investigator if...
Use an outside investigator if no one in the organization
All of these indicate the need for not only actual neutrality (which every investigation requires) but also the appearance of neutrality, which an outside investigator provides.
Cautionary note: Some employers have asked their attorneys to investigate complaints. Though an attorney may be highly skilled in conducting the investigation, some recent court rulings have indicated that in litigation, the attorney cannot both represent the employer and serve as a witness concerning the findings of the investigation. So, before having your attorney investigate a complaint, ask yourself: would you rather have him or her represent you, or be a witness on your behalf?
Sometimes it is advisable to conduct an investigation into other types of employee complaints. These could include mismanagement, feelings of unfair treatment or favoritism, and harassment not covered by law (such as actions by people who are "equal-opportunity bullies," not discriminating against any protected group but bullying everyone equally). In these situations, investigations can be used to shed light on what is going on and help resolve it, sending a strong message that the employer is committed to a positive, safe working environment for all employees. An employer’s attention in such instances will often result in an improved organizational climate and higher productivity.