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Internal Investigation of Harassment in the Workplace

Prevention, Investigation, Substantiation, Resolution

  • importance of timely internal investigation
  • fact finding mission
  • who should investigate?
  • planning the actual internal investigation
  • objectives of the internal investigation
  • designated and limited time frame

  • planning to conduct the actual internal investigation
  • conducting the internal investigation: investigation techniques:
    • interviewing the complainant
    • step interviewing
    • preliminary assessment of credibility
    • credibility on the line
    • preparing a signed statement
    • interim interview assessment

  • meeting with the accused
  • presenting the allegation
  • updating and comparing information
  • interviewing third parties

  • taking corrective action
  • final closure
  • updating the complainant
  • maintaining a conspiracy of silence
Harassment, in any form of combinations of the above, is common. Thus perpetrators can create a problem of exponential proportions. The internal investigation techniques for any one type of harassment are applicable to all. Of all types of harassment (discrimination) described above, the most common and least understood is sexual harassment, the topic of another publication. Reading the publication on "Prevention of Harassment in the Workplace" which includes sexual and racial harassment, will help you to understand the employer's responsibility for prevention of harassment. Reading the publication on "Positive and Progressive Discipline in the Workplace" will help you to bring final closure to harassment, infractions of the law or other forms of violence in the workplace. Reading these two publications will give the employer a better comprehension of the need for internal investigations.

(...) Structured internal investigation reduces costly employer liability and is critical to avoid serious problems associated with very damaging legal suit arriving at your organization, or a third party investigator with a very expensive warrant. If asked whether the harassment is criminal or civil, it depends upon the severity and often requires legal advice. Who cares if it is a civil or criminal infraction? Investigate regardless. If charges are laid, then the authorities designate the classification of the behaviour. Investigate regardless. The allegation may be both civil and criminal. The primary allegation may be one and the secondary allegation may be the other. Investigate regardless. (...)

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