Have you ever been involved in a workplace investigation? They’re not fun, are they?
If you do have to travel this rocky road; how can you be sure you’re doing an investigation correctly?
First and foremost, you should have policies that speak to how to manage complaints. Employers should let all employees know what the process is and what levels of investigations might occur based on the type of complaint lodged. Will some complaints be accepted on a non-formal basis; will all complaints require investigations?
As someone who has many years of human resources experience, I can tell you that there are a number of complaints that require investigations. Safety infractions; human rights complaints; sexual harassment complaints; abuse of authority; just to name a few. One of the biggest challenges for human resources personnel when complaints come forward, is that they don’t have time to put everything else aside to manage an investigation and end up doing them off the side of their desk. Unfortunately, that just doesn’t allow for the kind of attention an investigation deserves.
Investigations must be followed out according to the organizational policy and they must also be managed expediently, fairly and without bias. There are times when it is difficult or very challenging to manage an investigation internally and still remain neutral. A poorly managed investigation can impact the business negatively not only in terms of morale and loss of trust – but also legally if taken to other levels outside the organization – which is always an option to an employee.
An increasing number of organizations in Canada are developing policies to deal with workplace bullying and harassment and courts are treating these complaints seriously. Bill 168 (Ontario) became law in June of 2010 and is the third of its kind in legislation in Canada and there will be more pressure for investigations to be managed appropriately by employers. On November 1, 2013, BC put new policies into place (Bill 14) under the Worker’s Compensation Act (WorkSafe BC) that now includes language relating to bullying and harassment as well as changes to duties and responsibilities for employers, employees and supervisors or managers.
If you do not have trained investigators in your workplace, consider the services of someone externally. In the long run, your organization saves! While many organizations have employment lawyers, they are not always the best choice if they are going to also provide advice based on the outcome of the investigation.
All investigations must be executed using a systematic and legally defensible approach. Investigations can be handled in one of three ways: Internally if you have personnel that are appropriately trained and can remain unbiased; through a lawyer, or through a trained external workplace investigator.
Investigations sometimes reveal needed changes to policies and procedures that are out of date or not clearly communicated to employees. Or, we can find that policies are not followed consistently, which can create more challenges. To learn more about creating effective employment policies, anti-bullying and anti-harassment workshops, as well as workplace investigations, give us a call!
Email: kellie@simplycommunicating .ca