When an employee complains to his employer regarding an alleged sexual harassment violation, the employer has two options: to get a legal expert and file a harassment violation with an agency such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), or conduct an internal employment investigation.
In some ways, the first option may be a good choice to solve the problem quickly. However, legal processes involving government agencies are often made known to the general public, which can affect the company's image. This is why some employers prefer to take the second option and conduct an internal investigation within the company.
Here are some guidelines that the employer should consider if he plans to conduct an internal employment investigation:
- Internal investigations are conducted by the employer and several selected employees, not a lawyer. The employer may choose employees who have administrative positions or those who makeup or represent the diversity of his workforce.
- Take action immediately. The employer should plan his actions upon receiving the complaint to prevent the issue from getting worse.
- Fairness should be the investigation's top priority. Objectivity should be observed when investigating certain documents, employees, and events.
- Create a detailed and effective methodology of the investigation. This would enable the investigators to conduct investigation much easier.
- Document all the stages of the investigation. Doing this would give the investigation credibility.
- Maintain the confidentiality of the complaint and investigation. This depends on the type of employment violation in dispute.
- A conclusion should be released without eating up too much time. The employer should remember that there are two or more parties waiting for a resolution. Do not make them wait too long.
Of course the employer may still get advice from a legal expert in order for him to gain enough knowledge to conduct his own internal investigation. For more serious and complicated cases, the employer may choose to hire an external investigator to obtain more credible results.
Internal employment investigations indeed help employers to save money, to maintain their company's image, and to improve the working condition of their employees. However, an employer should make sure that both sides are heard and that the result is for the benefit of everyone.