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Conducting Workplace Investigations

Workplace investigations are crucial when it comes to establishing a safe and welcoming work environment. There are many reasons you may have to conduct a workplace investigation, including:

  • Employee behaviour, including concerns of discrimination, harassment or threats
  • Suspected substance use
  • Violations of workplace rules and workplace theft

Investigations are often complex and can involve navigating sensitive topics and disputes. More than ever before, companies face irreversible reputational damage and negative publicity if they mishandle workplace investigations.

To navigate workplace investigations properly, detailed interviews are key. Interviews can provide a clear understanding of an incident and help employers determine what, if any, disciplinary action should be taken. Employers will want to decide:

  1. Who to interview—Interviews should be conducted with respondents, complainants and witnesses at a minimum. It’s a good idea to only interview those who have information relevant to the case. It may also be helpful to have more than one investigator present during the interview.
  2. What order to interview—Employers should be cognizant of the interview order. Generally, businesses should interview the complainant first, any witnesses second and the respondent third. Schedule follow-up interviews as needed. Each subject should be informed that the interview process is confidential.
  3. What to ask during interviews—Questions should be written and prepared ahead of time. These questions should be a mix of open- and close-ended questions. Above all, interview questions should help investigators gather details related to times, dates, locations, individuals involved and other witnesses. Sample questions include:
    1. What happened? When and where did it happen?
    2. Who was present? Who did or said what?
    3. Why did it happen? Is there evidence? Who else may have relevant information?

Interview responses and other relevant details should be recorded throughout the investigative process. Investigators should take detailed notes, which will help during the review process.

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