The Importance of Conducting Timely Investigations of Harassment, Discrimination and Misconduct

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The Importance of Conducting Timely Investigations of Harassment, Discrimination and Misconduct

By Angel Ho, Esq.

Senior Consultant, Shaw HR Consulting

Employers have a responsibility to create and maintain a safe environment for their employees. Key to this is ensuring there is a timely process to address any issues that may arise in response to allegations of workplace harassment, discrimination or misconduct.  There are many reasons an organization may have to conduct a workplace investigation, including, but not limited to, when employees file complaints or employers become aware of issues relating to:

  • Discrimination
  • Harassment
  • Retaliation
  • Misconduct related to theft/embezzlement, drug or alcohol use, workplace violence, policy/rules violations

Faster Initiation of Investigations = Better Results

Simply put, the faster you follow-up after a complaint is receive, the better your results are likely to be.  It is not uncommon an employee feels threatened or afraid, and a timely response says to that employee “you matter.”  While certain circumstances may delay an investigation, understand the longer an employer waits to begin and complete an investigation, the more risk the employer incurs both from a trust – as well as a liability – standpoint.   When investigations are started promptly, employees feel more secure and confident with the overall process of the investigation.  Moreover, the best interviews are almost always conducted shortly after an incident versus after an extended period of time and when memories might fade. 

Law Mandates “Timely” is Important

Employing a timely response to workplace allegations of discrimination, harassment and misconduct fosters a more supportive workplace culture.  It is also important to know organizations have been directed by law to act quickly if an allegation is made.  Guidance from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) specifically states that in addition to employers taking complaints seriously, they also “must provide timely responses and investigations[1].” In addition, organizations that fail to engage in a timely fashion may face irreversible reputational damage and negative publicity.

How Does an Organization Ensure it Will Act Promptly?

Regardless of the perceived merit of the complaint, it is always best to to trigger investigations upon request.   Having a set process in place prior is imperative to being able to begin an investigation quickly.  In addition to this, you may want to consider having a regular impartial third-party investigator on retainer or on contract.  Ensure the investigator is well-trained in workplace investigations and has reviewed any policies and procedures specific to your organization.

For more information on workplace investigation services contact info@shawhrconsulting.com.

[1] Reference:  https://www.eeoc.gov/select-task-force-study-harassment-workplace

 

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