Conducting workplace investigations offer protection to employees and organizations. When claims are brought to the attention of management and human resources, representatives of these groups are required to address the concerns brought forth. According to The EmpLAWyerologist, there are several instances which may arise where you may have to conduct an investigation. Seven are listed below:
- Employment Discrimination Laws: These include federal laws such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the ADA, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, (ADEA), GINA, and state counterparts to these laws, which require investigations when an employee alleges a violation of any of these laws. Harassment by one employee of another based on the other’s race, religion, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation or similar status is one example of employment discrimination allegations that should trigger an investigation.
Health and Safety Laws, particularly federal Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration laws, and their state counterparts. Employers are legally required to investigate such problems and take all reasonable steps to prevent similar occurrences in the future. Laws under this category may also include any allegations of workplace violence. Employers have a legal obligation to investigate threats and, to the extent possible, prevent acts of violence in the workplace. One example of a safety complaint would be when one employee alleges that another is stalking him or her.
Retaliation Claims: The above employment discrimination and health and safety laws also prohibit retaliation against any employee(s) that reports or objects to behavior that violates such laws, or who cooperates in an investigation of allegations that such discrimination or safety laws were violated.
Whenever anyone in a position of any authority has information suggesting a violation of any of the above types of laws, or any policy. Usually, this information will point to harassment, discrimination, theft, violence, substance abuse, breach of trust or conflict of interest.
When offsite or after-hours conduct related to work either affects or can affect an employee’s job performance or violate a law or company policy. The stalking example I gave above could apply here too. Another example might be if a manager learns that an employee is meeting after hours to attempt to organize a union and demotes the employee.
Someone makes an anonymous complaint: Do not assume that the complaint is not valid, just because you do not know who is making the allegations.
An employee’s morale, behavior or performance, suddenly/mysteriously declines. This could be evidence of harassment, retaliation, workplace violence or even other unethical behavior. The sooner the employer investigates and finds out, the more likely that the employer can prevent a situation from worsening, and avoid liability.