Philadelphia Employment Law News

How to Conduct an Employee Investigation

Employers oftentimes receive complaints of harassment and discrimination by their employees. However, many employers do not know how to properly investigate these claims leading to potential liability for the employer itself.

Discrimination and harassment complaints are a huge headache for employers. Nobody likes an employment lawsuit, and nobody likes dealing with allegations of discrimination. However, failure to look into the matter more has notoriously led to multi-million dollar liability for many companies.

So when an employee complains about discrimination, you'd better take that complaint seriously. In addition, you will need to know how to conduct an employee investigation and how to take action to stop the alleged discriminatory activity.

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, workplace discrimination and harassment are illegal. Employers can be liable for encouraging the acts, participating, or simply turning a blind eye to the abuse or complaints. It's probably this last point of ignoring complaints that leads to most employers getting into trouble.

Employers must take swift action to respond to discrimination and harassment complaints. Part of this swift action is promptly and properly investigating any complaints. As a result, you will need to know some tips on conducting a proper employee investigation:

  • Talk to the parties separately. Don't have the accuser and the accused in the same room. You may not get honest answers, one party may be reluctant to be forthcoming, or it could just lead to arguing.
  • Take notes. Proper notes will help you defend your case. Or, in the worst case, they may help you determine if you need to settle.
  • Pay attention to dates and times. These dates and times will help you piece together the story and find holes in the employee's story, if there are any.
  • Limit access to employee and personnel files. Files should be kept under tight watch during this process.

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