Workplace Investigations are investigations by an Employer into allegations of misconduct brought forward by an employee. These may be complaints under government human rights and harassment codes, including discrimination, harassment, bullying and violence, or violations of employer policies. While some employers conduct investigations internally, many situations benefit from the expertise and neutrality of an external investigator. At the end of the investigation process, the employer will be provided with a comprehensive and detailed written report with findings of fact.
Agree has conducted workplace investigations in unionized and non-unionized environments, for provincial and municipal governments, hospitals, post-secondary institutions, in the private sector, and with not-for-profit organizations. We have conducted investigations into a variety of allegations including:
- harassment and bullying
- workplace violence
- sexual harassment
- discrimination covered under the Ontario Human Rights Code
- failure to accommodate
- misconduct and violations of employer policies
- allegations of poisoned work environments
- anonymous complaints
A Workplace Investigation, properly conducted, provides an impartial and factual basis for decisions that management will need to make. An investigation will reveal whether any misconduct has occurred, identify (or absolve) specific employees and provide a finding that can be used to support management actions following the investigation. In some instances, workplace culture and practices are recognized by the Investigator as contributors to the misconduct. Where requested Agree investigators can provide a separate management report to assist employers in preventing future violations as well as recommendations to restore relationships within the workplace following the investigation.
Agree also conducts Workplace Assessments (also often described as Workplace Audits or Organizational Reviews). Unlike an Investigation, which provides a finding of right or wrong, Workplace Assessments identify the root cause(s) of conflict and symptoms indicative of a poor workplace climate, and are designed to provide a report with recommendations for restorative interventions that address those underlying causes. With recent health and safety legislation requiring employers to provide workplaces free of harassment, bullying and violence, Workplace Assessments can assist employers in their efforts to improve the workplace climate in situations where precursors to violence, such as harassment, discrimination and bullying exist.
Please call Agree to discuss whether your situation would benefit from either a Workplace Investigation or Workplace Assessment Process.
THE INVESTIGATION PROCESS
Before commencing the investigation, Agree will meet with the employer team charged with responsibility for administering the policy(s) in question. Together with the team and its human resources and/or legal advisors, we will review the requirements of the policy, the allegations, what steps have already been taken to resolve the issues, and make specific recommendations as to how to proceed.
Agree then meets with the Complainant(s) and Respondent(s) separately, as well as with any witnesses suggested by the employer and parties. Interviews are conducted thoroughly, professionally and also with discretion and sensitivity. Agree investigators are also conflict management specialists, so gathering information does not come at the expense of damaged relationships and the process is designed to be fair to all involved parties. We also review any documentation or other available evidence.
Once all evidence has been thoroughly canvassed, Agree will generate a Draft Report for comment by the Complainant(s) and Respondent(s). The parties are provided the opportunity to offer further evidence or comment on the interim findings. Once these comments have been received and any additional information reviewed, Agree will issue a Final Report with a finding of fact pursuant to applicable policy(s). If requested, Agree can include a separate Management Letter which would contain systemic observations which may be valuable to assist management in modifying policy or practice to prevent recurrence.
Investigations can have a negative impact on all parties involved. Whether an investigation has been founded or unsubstantiated, the parties at the heart of the matter may need to continue to work together, or at least be comfortable interacting in the broader workplace. Following an investigation Agree can provide mediation to allow both parties to heal, develop common messaging around the outcome of an investigation and their working relationship moving forward. Often other parties to the investigation (eg. witnesses and support persons) also need to heal following an investigation. Agree can provide services in mediation or team restoration in these circumstances as well.
The Next Best Step: Selecting an Investigator is important. The employer, and impacted employees, need to feel that the Investigator is fair and impartial, knowledgeable about government and company policies, and due process related to investigations. We invite Employers to call our office to discuss if investigation is appropriate for your organization’s situation – 1-800-524-6967.