We conduct prompt, thorough workplace investigations while minimizing unnecessary financial and workplace impact
Sooner or later, every employer will have to investigate one or more of its employees. In California, there is an affirmative duty for employers to conduct a prompt, thorough and impartial investigation into employee complaints of discrimination, harassment and retaliation.
Workplace Investigations – Required By Law
California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) makes it an unlawful employment practice for employers to fail to take all reasonable steps necessary to prevent discrimination and harassment. Employers therefore have an obligation to investigate and take corrective action once it learns of employee complaints of harassment or discrimination. The most significant immediate measure an employer can take in response to a complaint is to launch a prompt investigation to determine whether the complaint is justified. The employer’s investigation is an important step in shielding it from liability later on.
Why hire outside counsel to conduct an investigation?
Workplace investigations, if done correctly, can provide the basis for asserting important defenses to claims like wrongful termination, discrimination, retaliation and harassment. Selection of a neutral investigator is a key component of any workplace investigation. While many complaints can be investigated by a competent and experienced internal human resources professional, not all companies have such a person.
Even if a qualified in-house employee is available, there are several reasons why employers should retain a third party to conduct the investigation, such as when the complaint is by or against an individual with more authority than the internal investigator, when the internal investigator has any perceived or actual biases related to the complainant or key individuals, or when other circumstances would make it difficult for the internal investigator to maintain objectivity or independence.
If there is no one in-house qualified to conduct an investigation, California law permits only attorneys or licensed private investigators to conduct investigations. As a general rule, experienced outside counsel should investigate complaints that are likely to go to litigation.
Rivera Employment Law’s Workplace Investigations
Rivera Employment Law provides an extensive range of workplace investigation services. For over ten years, Kevin Rivera, the firm’s principal, has conducted a variety of workplace investigations on behalf of employers across a range of industries and workplace settings. This experience allows us to effectively determine what needs to be investigated from what is unnecessary, and how to get to the core issues efficiently. The goal is to do everything necessary to conduct a thorough investigation, but nothing more. Interviewing unnecessary witnesses and reviewing superfluous documents can be costly – both in terms of what the investigator charges and also in terms of the impact in the workplace. We will analyze the allegations and evidence to avoid unnecessary financial and workplace impact. Kevin is a member of the Association of Workplace Investigators and also offers training and guidance to employers on conducting thorough and legally compliant investigations.