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Mastering Workplace Investigations: The Foundation for a Successful Investigation

3 minute read
Also authored by: Andrea S. Levstik

In the landscape of workplace investigations, a clearly defined investigative mandate and strong employer policies provide the foundation for a successful investigation. As an investigator, receiving clear instructions on the scope of the mandate and understanding the procedures set out by the employer in the policies is an important first step to ensure a fair and effective process.

The Importance of a Well-Defined Mandate

A clear investigative mandate serves as the foundation for a thorough and efficient workplace investigation. The mandate serves as the blueprint for the investigation, outlining its scope, objectives, and the specific issues to be addressed. A well-crafted mandate ensures that all parties involved understand the purpose and core issues of the investigation, promotes transparency, and helps to maintain the integrity of the investigation and its outcomes.

The mandate of each individual investigation will vary. For example, an investigator might be tasked with making findings of fact related to whether an alleged event occurred only, or may also be called upon to provide recommendations flowing from the findings of fact to the employer. A mandate might be restricted by a point in time if allegations are of a historical nature. The subject matter will vary with each investigation as well. The investigator may be asked to consider, for example, whether the findings of fact amount to any breaches of internal policies, violations of human rights, or contraventions of health and safety legislation.

Navigating New Allegations

In the course of a workplace investigation, it is not uncommon for new allegations or issues to emerge during the course of party or witness interviews. When new allegations are made, it is important for an investigator to assess their relevance to the ongoing investigation. This evaluation should be based on a clear understanding of the scope of the engagement and any potential for expansion from the initial focus of the investigation.

If the newly identified allegations are outside the scope of the existing investigation, but relevant to the issues within the original mandate, it may be advisable for the investigator to seek instructions on whether to amend their existing mandate to encompass the related issues.

Anchoring with Strong Policies

It is essential that organizations have policies in place to address employee complaints, including allegations of discrimination, harassment, and misconduct. Workplace policies should set out the process for making a complaint and the procedure to be followed for conducting an investigation into the allegations made. It is helpful for an employer to identify to whom a complaint report should be made and to set out the steps of the process to be followed in dealing with the complaint, along with who is responsible for each step. This may include a mechanism which allows for informal resolution and / or a more formal exercise requiring an external investigator be appointed. A policy that outlines the framework of investigations allows an investigator to proceed with consistency and transparency, mitigating potential risks to the integrity and outcome.

Should you have any questions regarding workplace investigations, or a review of your policies, please do not hesitate to contact one of our trusted workplace investigators.

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