workplace investigation

Image courtesy Stuart Miles and

This is the fifth in a series on workplace investigations, an effective tool to uncover – and deal with – problems that threaten to undermine your business.

You’ve completed your workplace investigation and assessed the credibility of each of your witnesses. Now you’re ready to write your investigative report and present your findings to the employer. Remember: Failure to document your investigation is just as bad as failing to conduct an investigation. Moreover, your report has to be written correctly, or you can place the entire investigation at risk.

The investigator’s role is to make findings of fact that enable the employer to draw and conclusion and take appropriate action. The standard of proof used is the “balance of probabilities.” That means, on the basis of the evidence, is the alleged misconduct more likely to have occurred than not?

Start by naming the parties, outlining the nature of the complaint plus pertinent background information, and summarizing the results of your investigation. Include a time frame for the investigation, relevant policies and procedures, and all the steps taken as part of the investigation.

Remember that the report is not private in case of litigation. That’s why the report should show that the employer acted promptly to address the complaint; if the investigation was delayed for any reason, explain the reason for that delay.

Include summaries of the interviews. (Attach relevant documents and statements signed by the interviewees as appendices.) Identify factual conflicts and discuss any assessments of witness credibility. That is, explain how and why one witness or one description of events was more credible than another.

There are three possible outcomes to a workplace investigation:

  1. You might have insufficient evidence to draw a conclusion
  2. The allegation might not be substantiated. That is, you might conclude that the alleged wrongdoing did not occur.
  3. The allegation is substantiated.

Do not include any recommendations in your final report: as the investigator, you should not be involved in making the final employment decision. Leave that to company decision makers and the company attorneys. You should avoid giving an opinion on whether laws were breached.

However, as the employer, be aware that the report could become evidence against the company if you fail to act on the report and the behavior alleged by the complainant recurs.

Next: Acting on the report

Workplace Investigations, Part I: The Basics
Yes, You Need a Workplace Investigation
How to Conduct a Neutral Investigation
How to Assess Credibility in Workplace Investigations

If you have questions or concerns about workplace investigations, contact Johnson Employment Law for guidance, 949-238-8044.