when investigations are needed
Companies conduct workplace investigations when an employee makes a complaint of any kind, particularly when the allegations include illegal behavior such as sexual harassment, retaliation, or age and race discrimination. Often, a company will decide to hire an external investigator for a variety of reasons, including to avoid an appearance of or actual bias by its internal investigator. In order for someone to conduct an external investigation (by someone who is not actually employed by the company), the state of California requires such person to be either a licensed private investigator or a licensed attorney. Because these types of workplace complaints often involve employment laws and regulations, companies most often hire employment attorneys, like those at MLG, to conduct this type of investigation. The employment firms that conduct workplace investigations are generally “defense-side” employment attorneys, meaning they specialize in advising employers (as opposed to employees).
the role of the investigator
A skilled investigator understands that investigations can be a great asset to the employer by providing candid insights from employees on the state of the workplace and the problem at hand. Oftentimes an employer doesn’t know that a particular employee or manager is problematic until a complaint arises about her or him and investigators find confirming data. Sometimes investigations reveal a more systemic problem about workplace culture as a whole.
A skilled investigator will question the employee who makes the complaint, the alleged wrongdoer, and other potential witnesses,. The investigator gives both the complaining party and the responding party ample time and opportunity to explain their perspective about the situation and to provide relevant details, including identifying potential witnesses. The investigator’s mission is to flesh out these details and perspectives and to determine the factual landscape underlying the allegations. The investigator will avoid making legal findings, as that is the job of the attorney of record for the company. Instead, the investigator will act as a skilled factfinder, getting to the bottom of any assertions made and allowing the attorney of record to determine if and when liability exists. In this way, the investigating attorney is not acting as an advocate for the company, but rather, as a unbiased third party who is gathering as much relevant factual information as she can from all parties.
Workplace Investigation Advantages
The advantages of an investigation are many. First, investigations are considered a baseline step for employers to comply with their legal obligation to prevent discrimination under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act. Second, a thorough investigation helps an employer avoid liability by demonstrating that it took an employee’s complaint seriously. Third, investigations help an employer get a handle on facts that underlie a potential lawsuit, allowing the company to determine if the matter should settle and in what amount. Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, even when an investigator concludes that the complaining witness’s assertions aren’t supported by the evidence, an investigator will often discover brewing issues or even non-related facts that could lead to liability if they are not dealt with by the employer. In all these ways, workplace investigations are an efficient means of resolving conflict and improving the overall workplace environment, thus increasing workplace productivity.
how we help
The attorneys at the Maier Law Group are uniquely positioned as effective investigators for several reasons. We are all experienced litigators who know how to effectively question witnesses about key information. However, we are also well trained in the essential skill of establishing rapport and trust with witnesses so that they feel heard and understood, and so that the information they provide is reliable and trustworthy. In addition, we effectively elicit and process large amounts of relevant information in a short period of time. Also, we have both plaintiff and defense side experience in our ranks, making our findings much less prone to claims of bias by either side if challenged in court. Moreover, we perform investigations in both Spanish and English, a skill that few investigators have but that is often needed. Finally, we are very experienced, and know how to ensure a company’s compliance with California and federal requirements around completing a prompt, impartial, and thorough investigation.