8 Steps to Conducting More Effective and Efficient Workplace Investigations, Best Practices

November 01, 2023 - Demetrius D. Pyburn

(In Demetrius’ leave of absence for military service, please contact Chris Gantt-Sorenson)

During a recent employment law webinar, Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd discussed considerations for employers when conducting workplace investigations. To help employers conduct more effective and efficient workplace investigations, we prepared the following workplace investigation checklist.

        Click here to download the printable checklist

The checklist provides a structured approach for employers to conduct thorough workplace investigations. It begins with the need to prepare a comprehensive investigation strategy, considering legal and policy violations, potential interviewees, questions to ask, and documents to gather. The identification of potential witnesses, including the complainant, accused, coworkers, supervisors, and others, is vital. 

To gather crucial evidence, employers should identify relevant documents, such as handbooks, emails, prior complaints, and financial reports. Investigators must also set clear objectives, aiming to uncover the "who, what, where, when, why, and how" of the incident. They should maintain a neutral stance, actively listen, and take effective notes during interviews, ensuring the presence of necessary personnel when required.

Interviewing the complainant is a crucial step, where the emphasis lies on preparation, asking non-accusatory questions, ensuring confidentiality, and encouraging a written complaint. This phase aims to extract factual information and protect the company's interests. Following this, investigators should gather documents and witness testimonies, allowing a clear picture of who should be interviewed and the order in which interviews should be conducted.

Interviewing witnesses and the accused requires a strategic approach, maintaining confidentiality, honesty, and asking the right questions. It is vital to address any new information that may emerge during this process. Evaluating investigative findings and evidence involves assessing witness demeanor, consistency of the stories, physical evidence, and corroboration from other sources.

Upon reaching a conclusion, employers should communicate the results to the involved parties, advising on substantiated and unsubstantiated claims and warning against retaliation. The final step is to compile all relevant documents, including interview notes, physical evidence, and communication, to create a comprehensive investigative report.

Additionally, the checklist offers best practices for avoiding future problems. This includes steps to prevent harassment, such as educating employees, encouraging reporting, and promptly responding to and investigating complaints. It also addresses the importance of safety and property damage prevention through risk assessments, safety training, and maintenance protocols. These practices aim to create a safe, respectful, and compliant work environment.

For a deeper dive into this conversation, click here to watch the webinar recording.

If you have questions about this topic or other employment law matters, please contact Chris or a member of the HSB Employment Law practice team.