Why Conduct Workplace Investigations?

Legal Requirements and Smart Business Practices Typically Require Investigations of Workplace Misconduct

Applicable law and sound organizational governance generally require employers to carefully conduct investigations into alleged work-related misconduct.  In certain instances, such investigations are required by law.  For example, in California, employers have a legal duty to investigate alleged harassment, discrimination and retaliation.  In other situations, conducting an investigation is often the wisest course of action.

As a general matter, employers should investigate any matter where they know or should know about possible workplace misconduct in order to ascertain the facts and, as needed, take prompt and appropriate remedial measures to end the problem.  By responding promptly and conducting a thorough investigation of alleged wrongdoing in the workplace, your organization will have the tools to restore employee morale and productivity, to avoid litigation, or, if necessary, to mount an effective litigation defense.

Situations Which Typically Trigger Investigations

Most frequently, employers learn of possible workplace misconduct because an employee complains either about other employees or about non-employee third parties (e.g., independent contractors, customers, clients, patients, vendors or suppliers).  Occasionally, however, it is a non-employee third party who makes allegations of inappropriate or objectionable conduct against the employer’s own employees.  These allegations also should be investigated.

There is a variety of work-related misconduct that should result in a thorough employer initiated investigation.  Such conduct includes, but is not limited to, alleged:

 

  • Harassment (including sexual harassment)
  • Discrimination (e.g., race, national origin, age, religion, sexual orientation, gender, pregnancy/childbirth, physical or mental disability, family care status, etc.)
  • Retaliation or interference with certain statutory mandated rights
  • Failure to engage in the interactive process or provide disability accommodation
  • Failure to provide required leaves of absence
  • Wage and hour violations (e.g., failure to pay overtime, provide rest breaks or meal periods, pay for all hours worked – including time worked “off the clock” and/or travel time – pay minimum wage, etc.)
  • Embezzlement, misuse or misappropriation of company property, including of trade secrets or other confidential or proprietary information
  • Conflicts of interests
  • Whistleblowing
  • Theft or fraud
  • Defamation
  • Workplace bullying
  • Workplace violence or threats against others
  • Vandalism or sabotage
  • Prohibited drug or alcohol use
  • Safety accidents or hazards
  • Performance-related problems, mismanagement or other misconduct in violation of company policies, applicable rules of ethics, or applicable law

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Restore Workplace Harmony and Avoid or Minimize the Potential for Bad Publicity and Litigation

An employer’s failure to conduct a prompt and thorough investigation into alleged work-related misconduct will often expose the employer to a significant risk of legal liability, generate bad publicity, and undermine employee morale and productivity.  On the other hand, employers are increasingly understanding that, if such allegations are investigated in a proper and timely manner, this approach can actually resolve conflicts and/or misunderstandings before they escalate into bigger problems (such as work-related accidents, incidents of workplace violence, and/or actual or threatened litigation).

 

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To learn more about how we can help your organization respond to issues of alleged workplace misconduct, contact one of our Los Angeles and Orange County Workplace Investigation Attorneys either by email or by telephone at (310) 426-2650.