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Total Articles: 25

Preventing Retaliation Claims During and After an Internal Investigation

When an employee reports a concern regarding fraudulent or illegal behavior, an employer’s immediate response is likely to open an investigation, stop any wrongdoing, and take appropriate corrective action. In the race to manage a challenging situation, it is easy to overlook the possibility that an investigation not conducted properly might actually create additional liability, even if the original allegations are unfounded. Given the ongoing influx of whistleblower claims, employers should be alert to preventing potential retaliation claims arising out of internal investigations.

Cross-Border Internal Investigations: How Headquarters Can Investigate Allegations or Suspicions of Wrongdoing Around the World

Conducting a thorough, effective and legally compliant internal investigation is tough enough when the investigation is confined to the United States. When a multinational company headquartered in the United States needs to investigate possible wrongdoing internationally, there is a whole new world of extra challenges. Donald Dowling, Shareholder out of Littler’s New York office, offers an approach, and strategies, for conducting an internal investigation overseas.

Importance of Properly Documenting Workplace Investigations

A recent decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upholding termination of a state trooper for “hitting on” female drivers during traffic stops and breaching his Last Chance Agreement highlights the importance for employers to document investigations into employee misconduct and the reasons for any resulting discipline – or non-discipline.

Who is the Audience for an Internal Investigation Report?

Too often, internal investigators mistakenly conclude that their reports are for the exclusive review of decision-makers. Sometimes, this may be true. However, more often than not, there are two audiences of which an investigator should be mindful – a primary audience and a secondary audience.

The Importance of Developing an Investigation Plan

The importance of a prompt and thorough internal investigation is more evident than ever, and an effective investigation plan can protect the company’s interests when reviewing internal complaints. Consider the following when developing an investigation plan.

Considerations in Selecting an Investigator

A threshold issue in any internal investigation is the selection of an investigator. A number of considerations will guide a company’s decision.

Commandment #4: Don't Delay Employee Interviews- and Memorialize the Statements

Over the last several weeks, I’ve been providing some practical advice on what to do and what not to do during federal, state or local investigations. Those Top Ten Commandments are:

How to Conduct an International Internal Investigation

Imagine an anonymous worker at a multinational’s Egypt factory contacts the global whistleblower hotline and accuses the Cairo plant manager of dumping chemicals into the Nile. Or imagine the manager of a bank’s Mexico City branch reports that her secretary’s family seems to be trading on inside information. Or imagine an employee of a multinational’s Marseilles office complains that one of her co-workers keeps groping her. Or imagine the U.S. Justice Department contacts a multinational’s Milwaukee headquarters to ask about some lavish dinners the Middle East sales team hosted for officials in Saudi Arabia.

Do’s and Don’ts of Conducting Internal Investigations

In today’s post #MeToo era, most companies, big or small, will likely need to conduct an internal investigation on an employee’s claims. Knowing how to conduct a successful internal investigation will help a company protect itself. Not only do internal investigations help avoid litigation, they may also improve employee morale, increase productivity, and oftentimes, end inappropriate conduct in the workplace.

Guideposts for Successful Internal Investigations: Part 2 – Commencing and Concluding the Investigation

Part 1 of this two-part series explored the five steps to consider before and at the start of any internal investigation.

Guideposts for Successful Internal Investigations: Part 1 – Establishing an Investigation’s Framework

The ability to effectively conduct internal investigations is essential to any business.

PODCAST: Top Tips for Concluding Investigatory Interviews

A truly effective workplace investigator knows how to best wrap-up an employee interview. Don’t leave loose ends or wiggle room that can later undermine the effectiveness of the overall investigation and the employer’s conclusions. Join Milwaukee shareholders Bud Bobber and Tim Kamin to hear suggestions and insights on how to most effectively conclude any employee interview during a workplace investigation.

PODCAST: Top Tips for Starting Workplace Investigatory Interviews

Workplace investigations can either stall out without any clear answer, or instead succeed and lead to a conclusion, depending on the effectiveness of the interviews. However, many people conducting interviews skip simple steps at the very outset that maximize their effectiveness. Join Milwaukee shareholders Bud Bobber and Tim Kamin as they discuss practical strategies, tips, and considerations when beginning an interview as part of a workplace investigation.

The Price of High Profile Investigations

With the recent wave of allegations concerning employment-related conduct, there may be in uptick of employers engaging outside firms to conduct internal investigations. While these can be kept in-house, high profile cases and social media often results in the publication of these reports to the public. Consider the NFL’s investigation of the Miami Dolphins known as “bullygate.”

Is Your Investigator More Biased Than You Think? Part II: How to Keep Truthiness Out of Your Workplace Investigations

All companies should have mechanisms through which employees can voice concerns and feel confident that (a) those concerns will be taken seriously, (b) those concerns will be fairly and promptly investigated, and (c) misconduct, if it is found, will be corrected. However, if unconscious bias infects decision-making when it comes to workplace investigations, employees will feel the system is rigged against them—no matter how well-written a company policy is, no matter how many avenues are given to employees to lodge complaints, and no matter how much a company talks about a culture of accountability. Fortunately, there are a number of steps workplace investigators can take to minimize the chances that this will occur.

Is Your Investigator More Biased Than You Think? Part I: How Unconscious Bias Can Disrupt Your Workplace Investigations

Unconscious bias (also called “implicit bias”) has become a trending topic—both in the general media and in the HR world. The topic of unconscious bias is often cited when considering ways companies can improve their diversity and inclusion efforts by recruiting and retaining diverse talent. It’s also critically relevant in the context of conducting workplace investigations because an essential duty of any workplace investigator is to conduct independent, unbiased inquiries about allegations of workplace misconduct.

Conducting Internal Workplace Investigations – Are You Prepared?

Having an effective and consistent investigation process can play an important role in a company's culture. Join Kathy Cooper Franklin, Littler shareholder, as she talks about creating a speak-up workplace culture, walks you through the six stages of an investigation, and explains the importance of written guidelines in an investigation process. This podcast provides employers with insight and tips for conducting internal investigations in the workplace.

Ripped From the Headlines: Three Investigation Lessons to Learn From a Political Controversy

Another day, another political scandal involving a politician accused of having had an extramarital affair. The latest such story concerns an alleged inappropriate relationship that the governor of Alabama had with a top aide—once again raising issues related to investigating allegations of bad behavior at work. Details have not been released about the various investigations that might have taken place in this case. But we do know that Governor Robert Bentley has admitted to making sexually-charged comments to Senior Political Advisor Rebekah Mason, though he denies having had a physical affair with her. Additionally, Alabama Law Enforcement Secretary Spencer Collier—the state’s former chief law enforcement officer who broke the news of the alleged affair—was fired for allegedly engaging in his own misconduct at work. This controversy once again presents several learning lessons for those of us who routinely conduct workplace investigations.

'Hybrid' Retaliation Claims and Investigation Protocols

Internal investigations are not new in human resources. Employee complaints of sexual harassment or discrimination, or of retaliation for making these complaints, have provided healthy fodder for internal workplace investigations for many years.

Internal Investigative Reports That Lead to Discipline Are Not Exempt Adjudicatory Records under FOIA

An Illinois Appellate Court has further limited the public records that a public body can withhold from disclosure under Section 7(1)(n) of the Freedom of Information Act, which exempts “records relating to a public body’s adjudication of employee grievances and disciplinary cases.” The court held in Peoria Journal Star v. City of Peoria that an internal disciplinary report that was created before any adjudication took place and existed independent of any adjudication was merely an investigatory report, not an adjudicative one. That the report later led to disciplinary action did not make it exempt under Section 7(1)(n).

Top 10 Workplace Investigation Mistakes: Part I

Resolving conflict in the workplace is a key issue for employers. Legal requirements have continued to expand in terms of what courts expect employers to do in order to prevent and correct wrongful behavior. In response, employers have increased mechanisms through which employees can lodge complaints related to their work environments. Employees have embraced their ability to provide information to their employers about problems they are experiencing, which has exponentially increased the importance of conflict resolution.

Lessons from Deflategate: 5 Ways to Avoid Workplace Investigation Fumbles

Over the years, the topic of workplace investigations has gained increasing importance in the HR and employment law world. Now, with investigations routinely making headlines, they have become a part of our popular culture as well. Most recently, the investigation conducted and conclusions reached on issues related to “Deflategate” have triggered national attention and controversy. Tom Brady’s appeal of his four-game suspension was upheld last week. In addition to the intrigue surrounding one of the country’s most well-known athletes, the issues raised in this story also provide great learning lessons for those of us who routinely conduct investigations.

Internal Investigation Supports Company’s Legitimate Business Reason for Termination.

Sharon Sybrandt was fired from her position as an Operations Assistant Manager at one of Home Depot’s Nashville stores after she allowed a co-worker to use her password-protected user ID to modify a special order transaction for Sybrandt. In addition, Sybrandt herself subsequently entered computerized “notes” on the transaction, indicating that she wanted to cancel part of the order and receive a refund. Both actions were in violation of the company’s “no-self-serve” policy. After Sybrandt was replaced by a male employee, she sued Home Depot, alleging gender discrimination under both federal and state laws. The lower court granted the company’s motion for summary judgment in April 2008, and the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal recently upheld that decision.

Good Investigations Pay Great Dividends, Part 2.

In the last issue of Healthcare Update, we discussed the recent decision of Furline v. Morrison. In that case the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit overturned a jury award against Howard University Hospital. The fact that the hospital had conducted a thorough independent investigation into allegations of age bias weighed heavily in the Court's decision.

Good Investigations Pay Great Dividends.

In the current economy, many managers and supervisors are being asked to do more with less, and success in today's market is marked by efficiency. Increasingly, managers and supervisors are being given more authority to handle personnel related matters and have less time to devote to handling such issues with care.
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