Investigating a workplace complaint can be a long and tedious process; however, every complaint should be taken seriously, and given the time and attention it deserves. When an investigation nears a conclusion, closing out the complaint properly can be as important as the investigation process itself. The following key steps will help ensure that you close out an internal investigation correctly.
Review the Entire File
Before you put the investigation in the “closed file,” make sure you review the entire investigation from start to finish to make sure you conducted a thorough and fair investigation. Also check that all transcripts, audio recordings, video recordings, and any other evidence relevant to the investigation are included with the case file. Make sure all notes are legible and understandable in case they are reviewed by upper-level managers or outside counsel.
Meet with the Parties Involved
The next step in closing out your internal investigation should be to meet individually with each party involved. At a bare minimum, this should include the complainant, and anyone directly accused in the complaint. It will also likely involve immediate supervisors and/or management. Explain that you have concluded your investigation and explain your findings. If there are any actions that will be taken because of the investigation let them know and take this opportunity to remind everyone that all information and evidence gathered during the investigation will remain confidential. If either the complainant or the accused is unhappy with the outcome of the investigation encourage them to speak to management instead of discussing the investigation in the workplace.
Make Sure Everything Is Well Documented
Hopefully, you have been doing a good job of documenting the entire investigation up to this point. After meeting with the parties involved, document the meetings. Make note of the date, time, and place of the meeting and provide a summary of your discussion. If a party was unhappy with the outcome, be sure to note that in the file. Try not to rehash the facts and instead take a positive go-forward approach.
Decide If Policies Need to Be Updated or Changed
Regardless of whether you found wrongdoing, now is the time to review the company’s harassment and diversity policies. As an investigator you may conclude that the accused did not violate the law nor the company’s policies; however, you may also conclude that the company’s policies are outdated, vague, or misleading which may have contributed to the circumstances that led to the complaint. If you see room for improvement, inform management of your suggestions.
Take Necessary Action
If your internal investigation concluded that there was no wrongdoing and your review of company policy showed no room for improvement, the only action left to take is to close out the file. If, however, you found wrongdoing (either a violation of state/federal law or a violation of company policy) action will need to be taken by the company pursuant to company procedures and that action should also be documented. In a case where there was no actual wrongdoing, but you see flaws in the company policies, now is the time to review and revise those policies in the hope of preventing another similar complaint.
At Ablin Law, we provide professional, confidential workplace investigations for employers and law firms. Please contact us for more information.