An Employer's Guide to Conducting Internal Investigations
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Disgruntled employees raise issues every day, and every day employers respond by conducting some type of internal investigation. To warrant an immediate and thorough internal investigation, employee complaints need not be in writing or "formally" made. The key ingredient in any investigation is preparation.
Be mindful that a complaint is not always the event that triggers a company's duty to investigate. The duty arises when an employer observes acts or statements that suggest prohibited activity. Prudent employers often investigate even without a clear legal mandate. An employee complaint can be about virtually any aspect of the employment relationship, but the most frequently raised concerns deal with harassment, discrimination, ethical violations and retaliation. Whatever the complaint, recent legal decisions have made certain that employers have an unequivocal duty to investigate promptly and thoroughly as soon as the employer is put on notice of possible wrongdoing. See Hardage v. CBS Broad, Inc, 427 F.3d 11 (2005).
In addition to general employment statutes, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act provides a broader level of protection for employees who file internal complaints. While relevant to publicly traded companies, these complaints apply to private companies pursuant to various federal and state "whistleblower" regulations. See Bechtel v. Competitive Tech. Inc., 2005-SOX-00033 (5/29/05). Further, filing a SOX complaint does not preempt other causes of action so an individual with a whistleblower issue is likely to file a claim under other employment laws. Whatever the complaint, the investigation should focus on rendering a proper business decision.
Table of Contents
- Introduction to Internal Investigations
- How to Prepare for an Investigation
- How to Conduct Interviews
- How to Develop Investigative Recommendations