How an organization responds to, and investigates, allegations involving harassment, discrimination, regulatory violations and other misconduct can have a serious legal and operational impact. Buckner provides below seven common mistakes organizations make in responding to, and investigating, alleged violations or misconduct:
1. Failing to provide a system to report allegations. Solution: An organization should educate employees and other parties concerning the process for making an allegation or complaint.
2. Selecting the wrong investigator. Solution: The person conducting the internal investigation should be trained, experienced and objective (e.g., no bias) to handle the subject matter of the inquiry. Further, the institution should determine whether the investigation should be handled by an employee, committee or an external agency (e.g., law firm).
3. Delaying the initiation or conclusion of the investigation. Solution: An organization should start an investigation as quickly as possible after the receipt of an allegation. Further, the inquiry should be thorough and accurate, but completed within a reasonable period.
4. Collecting and analyzing evidence improperly. Solution: An institution should ensure the integrity of the investigation by: (a) securing relevant evidence; (b) collecting evidence using legal and industry-approved protocols; and (c) analyzing evidence through sound procedures or trained experts.
5. Conducting ineffective interviews. Solution: Interviews should be conducted by persons (two interviewers are best) trained in effective investigative interviewing techniques and documented by an accurate method (e.g., digital recorder, court reporter, detailed handwritten notes).
6. Forgetting the applicable collective bargaining agreement. Solution: An investigator should be aware of any key provisions in applicable agreements between the organization and collective bargaining unit when engaging in investigative activities, including conducting interviews of a member of a union.
7. Ignoring all available sources of information. Solution: An investigator should not overlook sources of evidence that can corroborate or refute the allegations, including researching information in public records and proprietary databases.
For additional common internal investigation mistakes, contact Michael L. Buckner, Esquire, (firstname.lastname@example.org; +1-954-941-1844).