Employers face a significant amount of stress when an employee files a complaint. After all, if an employee claims they suffered harassment or discrimination, the company could face serious financial and legal consequences.
In such a case, employers must take immediate action to investigate the claims, and should consider the following tips.
OBJECTIVITY IS ESSENTIAL
This is one of the most important things employers must remember. It is easy to only see the threat that a complaint could pose to a business. However, understanding and complying with employees’ rights in these situations often helps to protect the business in the long run by preventing long-lasting legal issues or even litigation.
Therefore, employers should conduct an objective investigation dedicated to collecting the facts. More and more to ensure such objectivity, employers have been hiring employments specialists – which routinely includes law firms – to conduct the investigation which tends to allow witnesses to be more candid, particularly the complaining employee.
ACT QUICKLY, BUT STRATEGICALLY
Employers should outline an investigation plan long before they face a complaint in their employee handbook. That way, both employees and employers understand the process before a complaint ever arises, and also serves as an important weapon in an owner’s defense arsenal.
Consider the investigation process but customize it to the situation. For example, it is helpful to plan:
- What process to utilize to investigate the matter;
- What team member will be the point-person in the investigator’s investigation; and
- What types of resources are necessary for the investigation.
Moreover, to maximize the chance to collect all potentially important information the employer should inform the entire workforce to place a “litigation hold” on all hard-copy and electronic files, meaning everyone must maintain their text messages, emails, notes, letters and any other form of material that could in any way be related to the claims raised in the complaint.