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Volume 32, Issue 2

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Wednesday, 20 March 2019 15:34

Laying the Groundwork for a Successful Internal Investigation

The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements brought the continuing problem of workplace misconduct onto the national stage, shining a light not only on the prevalence of harassment, but also on the dire need for effective processes to investigate when allegations are made. Clouse Brown Partner Alyson Brown discusses.

Confidential information
It’s in a diary
This is my investigation
It’s not a public inquiry.

— “Private Investigations,” Mark Knopfler/Dire Straits

It’s Friday. Thoughts are turning to the weekend ahead. The phone rings: We have a problem — I’ve gotten a complaint of sexual harassment against a senior VP. What do I do?

I’ve had variations of this call dozens of times. In the months since #MeToo and #TimesUp grabbed national headlines, the volume of calls about workplace complaints, especially those involving senior executives, has skyrocketed.

Employers and executives must act promptly when faced with these complaints. An effective workplace investigation can mean the difference between effective resolution and unwanted litigation. Moreover, in the current business environment, how employers investigate potential misconduct can affect that company’s reputation almost as much as the alleged conduct itself.

Consistent principles and procedures must be followed whenever allegations of misconduct are investigated. While volumes are written on how to ask questions and read body language, less guidance is available on the necessary pre-planning necessary for an effective investigation.