Generally, an employer must conduct a workplace investigation when they are made aware of alleged misconduct.
Below are a list of events that normally trigger a workplace investigation:
- The easiest one —an employee files a formal complaint or grievance.
- You receive a demand letter from the employee’s attorney.
- An employee files a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or equivalent state or local agency.
- An employee tells a supervisor about a situation that makes him or her “uncomfortable” but says he or she doesn’t want to make trouble and therefore doesn’t want to file a formal complaint.
- An employee fills out workers’ compensation paperwork and lists something like “stress due to workplace harassment.”
- An employee’s morale, behavior, or performance mysteriously declines. Take note that in a situation like this you don’t want to pry so aggressively that you intrude on the employee’s personal life or force the employee to feel further victimized. Instead, start by asking general questions about the workplace environment to determine whether workplace events have any role in the decline.
- Reported employee misconduct or harassment to an employer’s hotline or another manager.
- Anonymous voicemail, e-mail, or written messages. The fact that the message is anonymous isn’t an excuse to skip an investigation. It may mean, however, that you’re limited in your ability to gather information since some anonymous messages don’t contain all relevant facts.
- An employee is arrested for conduct occurring in the workplace, which if true also would be a violation of your company policies. Note that you can’t take action against the employee by firing him the moment you hear about the arrest. They might be innocent. Also, you need to determine for yourself whether the conduct occurred in the workplace and whether there was a violation of your company policies.
Click the links below to download our checklist and guide to help with your next workplace investigation. These forms are in Word format and can be easily customized to suit the needs of your company: