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Workplace Investigations Employee Rights
(2 Main Types & Definition)

Whether you are employed by a private company or public agency, workers have rights if they are being investigated in the workplace. These rights include the right to be heard, the right to a prompt investigation, and the access to information that is being used against you during said investigation.
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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt

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What is a Workplace Investigation?

A workplace investigation is a process of uncovering facts about an incident that occurred at work. The investigation involves discussing a complaint or grievance for specific misconduct, policy violation, or unethical behavior to reach a final decision and determine the appropriate action. The investigation process requires strict confidentiality, documentation, and an impartial perspective.

Scenarios that Warrant a Workplace Investigation

Examples of common scenarios that may initiate a workplace investigation include:

Discrimination - Being discriminated against in the workplace means that an employer takes adverse action against you because of one of the following attributes: race, color, sex, sexual orientation, age, physical or mental disability, marital status, family or carers responsibility, pregnancy, religion, political opinion, national extraction or social origin.

An investigation of a formal complaint of discrimination is an official inquiry into claims raised in a complaint to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). These investigations may include numerous fact-finding methods including interviews, a fact-finding conference, requests for information, interrogatories, and/or affidavits.

Bullying - Workplace bullying is repeated and unreasonable behavior directed toward an employee that creates a risk to health and safety. This behavior is a risk because it may affect the mental and physical health of workers. Taking steps to prevent workplace bullying from occurring and responding quickly if it does is the best way to deal with workplace bullying.

For employers, the consequences of inaction are significant. Failure to take steps to manage the risk of workplace bullying can result in a breach of EEOC laws.

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Why Workplace Investigations are Biased Toward the Employer

Internal workplace investigations are conducted by the employer to determine the company's own liability, which is why these investigations are usually biased toward the employer.

It is the employer's desire that the investigation reveals that there were no violations of any employee’s legal rights. There is no incentive for the investigators to continue the investigation in order to find the truth.

In these situations, investigators may not be motivated to explore evidence that proves a violation or contradicts the employer’s narrative. This bias makes it hard for workers to get a fair hearing during an internal investigation. As an employee, you need someone on your side to advocate for your legal rights.

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