By Audra Hedberg, PHR, PHRca, SHRM-CP, Senior Compliance Consultant at Trüpp
Workplace investigations are an important part of mitigating organizational risk and maintaining compliance with employment law. Our recent article, When to conduct a workplace investigation, provides valuable information about the triggers that should initiate a workplace investigation. The next step is to ensure those conducting the investigation are paying careful attention to documentation.
Once an investigation has commenced, employers will need to keep detailed records and document all relevant information obtained through the investigation. All investigation documentation should remain separate and confidential; investigation files should not be stored in an employee’s personnel file. The only record from an investigation that should be in a personnel file is any disciplinary action taken as a result of the investigation.
Here are the best practices for what to document and retain throughout the investigation process:
- A timeline of events that is maintained–this will be helpful as more information is gathered throughout the investigation
- The initial complaint, whether taken verbally or in writing
- All interviews of the complainant and the accused, including the questions that were asked and any written statements provided
- All witness interviews, including the questions that were asked and any written statements
- A final written report summarizing the investigator’s findings–it’s important to note, these reports should not include any legal conclusions
- All actions the company has taken in response to the investigation–this can include disciplinary action, required training, mediation, or termination of employee(s), as well as other actions
It is important to pause any document retention or destruction processes that are in place during the investigation or longer if there is legal action. It may be necessary to initiate a litigation hold to ensure that no employee destroys documentation.