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Investigations Lawyer

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Allegations of discrimination, harassment, and/or retaliation in the workplace can present a serious risk of costly liability for a business. It is in an employer’s best interest to launch an immediate investigation into any complaint. Even with a strong team of human resources professionals, it is highly recommended that you seek the legal counsel of a skilled Arizona workplace investigations lawyer to conduct a third-party investigation on your behalf, providing further protection for your business and uncovering any potential liability.

The Importance of Impartiality During a Workplace Investigation

Under federal and state law, protected groups retain the right to file complaints of discrimination against their employer and seek compensation based on their membership in one of the following protected classes:

  • Age (applicable to those over 40)
  • Color
  • Disability (both physical and mental)
  • Genetic information (to include family medical history)
  • National origin
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Sex (to include gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy)

Workplace discrimination and harassment are two of the most common reasons to conduct a workplace investigation. When conducting your investigation, it is crucial that you remain impartial throughout the process.

Aside from avoiding taking sides, the employee conducting the investigation must not be a supervisor of either the complainant or the accused. For example, if your human resources manager typically handles workplace investigations, but a human resources employee is the accused, the human resources manager should not conduct the investigation. In order to assure the highest level of impartiality, a third-party investigator, such as an Arizona workplace investigations lawyer, should be utilized.

A Phoenix Workplace Investigations Lawyer Can Help.

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The Workplace Investigation Process

Once you have determined that a workplace investigation is necessary, your investigation will likely follow these steps:

Preliminary Interview

After receiving a complaint, the first person you will want to speak with is the complainant. It is important to interview this employee in a space away from other employees so that the content of the meeting can remain confidential. An employee wants to feel comfortable and safe, especially if they have experienced discrimination or harassment. During this preliminary interview, you will want to determine:

  • Who is the accused?
  • What happened that led to the complaint?
  • Where did the incident occur?
  • When and how often did it happen?
  • Is the complainant aware of any witnesses to the event?
  • Has the complainant confronted the accused?

If you work with a workplace investigations attorney, your lawyer can coach you on how to approach the preliminary interview and best practices for speaking with the complainant. They can also conduct this interview for you in order to provide your employee with the most impartial, confidential environment possible and to safeguard your business interests.

Gather and Preserve Evidence

The complainant may provide you with written evidence of harassment, such as malicious emails. You may also be able to obtain security camera footage, screenshots and photographs, and other evidence. Any evidence that you obtain needs to be safely secured and needs to remain unaltered.

If your company has an employee handbook that outlines the business’s policies, a copy of that manual will be important in order to demonstrate that employees who broke company policy were responsible for adhering to these regulations.

A workplace investigations attorney can assist you in gathering and properly safeguarding evidence.

Conduct Interviews

Interviews with witnesses can provide key information in a workplace investigation. It is important to interview all witnesses separately and privately. Be cautious about hearsay; any statements made by a witness should be about what they saw or heard and not secondhand information.

You will also need to interview the accused. The accused should be given appropriate notice that they will be interviewed regarding alleged misconduct so that they have adequate time to prepare. The accused may introduce you to additional witnesses who could shed a different light on the incident or even demonstrate that no discrimination or harassment occurred.

Workplace investigation lawyers are skilled in the interview process. Whether you request guidance for how to conduct your interview or you decide to let a licensed attorney interview your employees, you can trust in a fair and effective investigation.

Determine the Need for Disciplinary Action

After conducting a thorough investigation, an experienced Arizona employment attorney will be able to determine if any misconduct occurred and whether any liability exists for the employer. This step can be the most difficult for many employers. If you need assistance in determining whether any liability exists, or if you need help deciding what actions would be appropriate to take, reach out to an experienced Arizona employment attorney.

Report on Your Findings

In order to ensure you have the most complete report of your investigation, you will want to hire an experienced workplace investigations attorney. However, even if you do not involve an attorney in your investigation, an experienced Arizona employment attorney can still advise you whether you have exposure to liability and counsel you on how to minimize your liability.

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How Can a Phoenix Workplace Investigations Lawyer Help?

Workplace investigations can be stressful for all parties involved. Further, the business could experience reputation damage and stand to lose a great deal of money if formal charges of discrimination are brought against the company.

The best way to ensure you are conducting a thorough and fair investigation that protects both the employees and the business is to work with a skilled Phoenix workplace investigations lawyer from the beginning. Your lawyer will work alongside you throughout the process, counsel to acting as a third-party investigator, gathering evidence, conducting interviews, and preparing reports.

Protect your business and your staff. Reach out today to schedule a free, confidential consultation.

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frequently asked question

What are my rights during a workplace investigation?

As an employer, first and foremost, you have the right to an employment attorney. Additionally, you have the right, and often times a duty, to take appropriate corrective action against the perpetrator who has been found to be in violation of company policies or state and federal laws.

What should I expect during a workplace investigation?

Emotions can run high during a workplace investigation. Employees fear that they will lose their job or be retaliated against for participating in an investigation, no matter if they are the complainant, the accused, or a witness. You may encounter people who do not want to participate or state that they have no knowledge of the allegations, even if they have been named as witnesses.

Your duty as the employer is to guarantee that employees’ rights will be protected and that they will also be shielded from retaliation.

What is a flawed investigation?

Examples of a flawed investigation include one that:

  • Was not promptly initiated
  • Lacked impartiality and objectivity
  • Was not confidential
  • Evidence and supporting documents were altered or left unsecured
  • Interviews were not conducted in private
  • Witnesses were interviewed together rather than individually
  • The details of the investigation and/or the identities of the involved parties were made known to those outside the investigation

In essence, any investigation that fails to uphold the rights of the employees is a flawed workplace investigation.

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