What to Know Before Hiring a Workplace Investigator

An employee brought a complaint to Human Resources about a situation that may have involved a violation of the law or the employer’s policies. Based on a preliminary inquiry, the HR professional determined that an investigation is appropriate.

How to Choose a Workplace Investigator

Choosing an investigator may be one of the most important decisions made when deciding to investigate alleged wrongdoing in the workplace. The investigator must be able to conduct the investigation objectively. An objective investigator has no stake in the outcome, does not have a personal relationship with the individuals involved in the investigation, and would not be influenced or have any influence over any of the individuals involved in the investigation.

If the employer decides to use an internal investigator, it is important that the investigation does not appear to be directed by someone who may have an interest in the outcome, such as the investigator's supervisor.

What Qualities Should the Workplace Investigator Possess?

The investigator must be impartial. If the investigator cannot be impartial, then the outcome of the investigation may be called into question. If the investigator has the appearance of being biased, the employer should retain an independent attorney-investigator who will not be influenced by the employer, its managers or employees.

The investigator must be experienced and possess the skills necessary to conduct a thorough and complete investigation, and prepare the investigation report. The investigator should have a strong background in law and should be specially trained in the investigative process.

The goal of the investigation is to determine the facts surrounding the alleged conduct that led to the complaint. The impartial, independent investigator serves as a fact-finder and must be skilled in the interview process so that interview questions are relevant, reveal the facts of the matter, and enable the investigator to make credibility determinations.

Once the investigator is chosen, the employer and investigator will determine the scope of the investigation—the subject of the next blog post in this series by Jeanne Saffan, a member of the Association of Workplace Investigators.

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