11 Steps to Conducting a Workplace Investigation

There will be times when you must investigate a problem in the workplace. Here’s how to go about it.

Step 1 – Discover the problem
Don’t wait for a formal complaint. Instead, if you suspect misconduct, initiate an investigation immediately.

Step 2 – Pre-investigation
Consider what immediate steps you can take to avoid future problems. Identify potential witnesses and search available records and personnel files. Consult current and former supervisors.

Step 3 – Provide Interim Protection

One of the first considerations may be the need to take immediate measures to protect the accuser or the alleged victim. Separating the alleged victim from the accused may be necessary to guard against continued harassment or retaliation.

Step 4 – Prepare Investigation Strategy
Prepare your strategy and include a timeline and outline of questions to ask. Then, consult company policy, union arbitration, or agreement for possible restrictions or specific procedures to follow.

The use of all available resources will assist the investigator in developing a proper plan. In addition, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) provides guidelines and definitions to employers on specific topics such as sexual harassment and discrimination.

Step 5 – Choose an Investigator
Select the investigator carefully. Consider using someone outside the department or company who will be an effective witness in the company’s defense if you are sued following the outcome.

The appropriate investigator should possess all the following:

  • An ability to investigate objectively without bias.
  • No stake in the outcome. The investigator should not have a personal relationship with the involved parties.
  • Skills that include prior investigative knowledge and working knowledge of employment laws
  • Strong interpersonal skills.
  • Attention to detail.
  • The correct temperament to conduct interviews.

Step 6 – Interview Complainant
Address privacy and security issues. Reiterate the company’s commitment to preventing retaliation and maintaining neutrality and impartiality in the investigation. Don’t promise confidentiality; state that information will be distributed only on a need-to-know basis. Also, don’t place investigation notes in the employee’s personnel file. Instead, please keep them in a permanent, confidential investigation file.

Step 7 – Interview Witnesses
Advise witnesses that no judgments have been made about the complaint’s validity. Don’t promise confidentiality. Tell the witness not to discuss the interview with others. State that retaliation against the complainant or others is prohibited.

Step 8 – Interview Accused
Inform the employee that they are suspected of misconduct. Give the employee a full opportunity to respond to each accusation and ask for corroborating witnesses. Reiterate that retaliation against the complainant is prohibited.

Step 9 – Analyze Results
Review notes and assess the credibility of witnesses and determine whether you have an accurate picture of what occurred. Ensure that any proposed discipline you impose is consistent with past company practices. If you need help, consider the second level of investigation (law enforcement or private investigator), if appropriate.

Step 10 – Implement Action
Take prompt remedial measures based on the results of the investigation. For example, if the employee is cleared, explain that the investigation results do not substantiate the complaint or suspicion.

When necessary, employers must take appropriate corrective action to the situation, such as discipline or even termination. The employer should:

  • Look at any damages incurred by the victim and discuss how to remedy those damages.
  • Determine if education, such as sexual harassment training or anger management training, would benefit the individual or all employees.
  • Consider if the need exists to review, modify, or redistribute workplace policies.
  • Determine whether a review of the investigation and complaint resolution processes is necessary.

Step 11 – Follow Up
Draft a confidential report documenting the investigation’s results. Conduct follow-up training of employees in relevant areas, if applicable. Use the opportunity to remind employees of company policies and procedures.

SACS Consulting & Investigative Services has Corporate Investigators

If your business is ill-equipped to conduct an internal investigation, consider hiring a private investigator to find answers. Private investigators can have a broader experience as they have handled 100s of these types of investigations. Private investigators can also mitigate some of the costs of internal investigations by conducting a comprehensive investigation with minimal impact on the daily operations of a business or organization.

Call us today at 330-255-1101 for a free quote on our corporate investigation services.