In some employee misconduct allegations, the facts are clear and undisputed. However, in others, the outcome hinges on how credible the investigator feels the complainant and/or witnesses are. When one person’s statements contradict or simply don’t align with what someone else said happened, you may need to make a judgment call. Consider the following questions when you’re faced with this type of “he said/she said” investigation:

  1. Will the outcome of the investigation impact the witness in some way that could be influencing his or her side of the story?

  2. Taken on its face, is the witness’ story plausible? Could events have occurred as described?

  3. What is the source of the witness’ knowledge? Did he or she see or hear events first-hand or are they relying on something they heard from someone else?

  4. How specific are the witness’ statements? Is there evidence to support details the witness provided?

  5. Are there other witnesses that can back up the witness’ statements?

  6. Is there reason to believe the witness has a history of being untruthful?

  7. Was the witness consistent with his or her story throughout questioning or did they contradict themselves?

  8. When assessing the credibility of the complainant, have there been similar complaints about this person in the past? Of course, that is not an automatic indication that he or she is guilty, but it’s a factor to consider.

  9. What was the witness’ demeanor when being interviewed? While subjective, eye contact, body language and posture can help inform your credibility determination.

Document the Determination

When making credibility determinations, it is essential that you document your rationale. Make a contemporaneous record of the facts and observations that lead to a decision to either trust or discredit a witness’ retelling of events.

Using an Objective Investigator Matters

It’s important to use a skilled, trained, impartial investigator for any workplace misconduct matter. When stories don’t align and the ultimate determination comes down to witness credibility, it is critical that the investigator not have any real or perceived bias in the outcome. Choosing an external investigator can help protect your organization in the event the investigator is a witness later in subsequent legal proceedings.

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