As we all know, workplace investigations are complicated, sometimes quite drawn out, and typically involve gathering many different types of documentation. This documentation is the backbone of an internal investigation – it represents research, interviews, data compilation and more. In addition, this documentation can be absolutely crucial to legal proceedings, if any results from an investigation. Let’s talk about some of the different types of documentation in workplace investigations that you’ll want to gather and maintain.
- Initial Complaint: What is the impetus for this investigation? Has one employee complained to human resources about the conduct of another? Has money or equipment gone missing? Or is a pattern of behavior being investigated? Whatever the reason for the investigation, documenting it as the starting point is key.
- Witness Interviews: If the conduct of one employee is discussed with another in passing, it is gossip. If it is documented as part of a workplace investigation, it is testimony. In this case, that documentation is the very key to investigation case management. Within this documentation, the reasons for the particular witness to be interviewed, and the notes taken during the interview should be maintained as part of the official record. If possible, to maintain the integrity of the interview, more than one person should sit in to conduct the discussion. In order to maintain the highest level of dignity within employee relations, witnesses should be treated in the exact same manner as one another.
- Statement from the Accused: The person or people being investigated must be given the opportunity to provide a rebuttal against accusations during an investigatory interview. Documenting every single word is crucial. Again, this is key, especially if a court trial ever occurs.
- Index of Evidence: Because so much data is gathered and reviewed in the course of an investigation, you will need to maintain an index of documentation in order to easily access what you need, when you need it. Case management software can be a lifesaver in this case, automatically adding information to a list as soon as documentation is logged. While this can also be done by hand, it can be much more time consuming and tedious.
- Close-Out Report: This is the opposite bookend to the initial complaint that kicked off the investigation. The close-out report contains a narration of steps taken during your investigation, a final summation of the case, and the findings and disposition. This can be a very in-depth document and is the lasting record of relevant information and actions. Stay tuned for more specifics on this critical document in a future post.
The list above is not intended to be inclusive and only begins to dive into the different types of documentation you need maintain during and after an investigation. Remember that something that seems insignificant when you start the investigation may, by the end of the case, prove to be your most important piece of data yet and help you to build the strongest and most accurate case possible.
Deb Muller is the CEO of HR Acuity, a technology solution that combines documentation, process, and human expertise so organizations can meet the challenge of managing employee relations in the modern world. Be proactive. Manage risk. Create a safer workplace.