Articles by Rachel Ablin, Esq.
The recent firing of McDonald’s former CEO Steve Easterbrook highlights the problem of drawing the line between appropriate and inappropriate romantic relationships in the workplace. Easterbrook was a successful CEO. McDonald’s stock price more than doubled during his 4-year tenure. However, he lost his job because a consensual relationship with another company employee violated the company’s code of conduct, which states “employees who have a direct or indirect reporting relationship to each other are prohibited from dating or having a sexual relationship.” Easterbrook publicly admitted making a mistake and said it was time for him to move on.
There’s not a lot of room for error when investigating complaints of workplace harassment or discrimination. Mistakes made during the investigation process can expose your client to expensive liability in the future. That’s an unnecessary risk that can be minimized with proper preparation and by using a neutral and experienced investigator.
Different types of questions can elicit different answers. If you are investigating a workplace complaint of harassment, discrimination, or any other legal violation, the questions you ask are the key to uncovering the information you need to make informed decisions and to protect your organization. You should approach the questioning from two angles, asking both specific and open-ended questions.
Retaliation claims are common. In Fiscal Year 2018, the EEOC received more than 39,000 claims of retaliation — and that doesn’t even count the claims filed with state or local agencies. Companies need to have policies and procedures in place that will help them avoid these potentially costly claims.
California and New York State recently passed laws that prohibit employers from discriminating against job applicants and employees because of their natural hairstyles, including braids, dreadlocks, and twists.
Employers might face more age discrimination lawsuits if Congress passes the Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act (POWADA). This proposed bill would essentially reverse a 2009 Supreme Court decision that had made it harder for workers to win age-discrimination claims.
Businesses conducting internal investigations need to ensure those investigations are impartial and independent. For companies that choose to handle the investigatory process in-house and ultimately “clear” the accused of any wrongdoing, there can be a perception that investigators and company leaders favored the accused – especially when the accused person is him- or herself a senior leader or highly valued employee.
The outcome of a workplace investigation typically depends on information gleaned through witness interviews. That information can, in turn, lead investigators to explore new or different avenues toward uncovering the truth. Witness cooperation can be critically important. Unfortunately, witnesses are sometimes hesitant to share what they know for fear of retaliation or retribution. In other cases, witnesses may be hostile or wholly uncooperative. Here are several tips to help you deal with witnesses who may hold the keys to the information you need, but who are reluctant to participate in the investigatory process.
How the Mueller Investigation and Your Company’s Misconduct Investigations are Similar (and How They Differ)
As the Mueller investigation plays out on the national stage, corporate HR departments across the country are ramping up their internal investigations procedures to handle an increase in allegations of employee misconduct. If you are responsible for your organization’s internal investigations policies and processes, you may be surprised to learn that the Mueller investigation actually has a lot in common with internal investigations in the business world.
There is no question that the #MeToo movement has impacted workplaces in the U.S. Sexual misconduct victims who may have been hesitant to bring their stories forward in the past now feel more emboldened to do so. Businesses large and small across the country have had to investigate allegations and make sometimes-tough decisions as a result.