When an employer has reason to believe that a violation of law may have occurred in the workplace, an investigation may be required by law.
Under other circumstances, the employer needs to make a determination whether an investigation should take place. Key factors in making this decision include when there may be a violation of the employer’s policies, or rules, whether a complaint is made by an employee in a protected category and if the complaint indicates a broad systemic problem in the workplace.
The situations that follow are examples of five scenarios when the employer should conduct a workplace investigation:
- An employee reports sexual harassment in the workplace.
- An employee complains that opportunities for advancement at work are being denied because of the employee’s gender.
- An employee reports to her supervisor that a coworker appears to be under the influence of drugs and alleges to have witnessed the coworker purchasing an illegal substance at the workplace.
- An employee reports that he overheard a coworker threatening violence toward another coworker in the workplace parking lot.
- An executive level employee confides in “confidence” with the human resource director that the company’s president frequently uses racial slurs about certain employees on the management team.
Once the employer has determined that a workplace investigation should occur, the next question concerns who should conduct the investigation. Our next blog post will deal with the choice of the investigator.