A workplace investigation is a fact-finding exercise in which the investigator reviews the complaint, interviews the relevant parties, assesses the pertinent evidence, and reaches a conclusion as to whether the complaint or concern has merit. Most often, workplace investigations are complaint driven, whether on account of harassment, sexual harassment, workplace violence, workplace bullying, and the like.
In Ontario, the Occupational Health and Safety Act ("OHSA") requires employers to investigate incidents and complaints of workplace harassment. This duty should not be taken lightly, as a poorly handled investigation, or failing to conduct one at all, could expose an organization to legal risks, including penalties under the OHSA, a human rights complaint, or a civil lawsuit. Aside from the fact that an improper and/or inadequate workplace investigation could result in significant liability for an employer, it could also prove financially costly and could be detrimental to workplace morale and the credibility of management. For these reasons, it is essential that employers act diligently and responsibly when an employee raises allegations of workplace misconduct.
Why should employers choose an external third-party investigator?
When investigating an employee’s allegation(s) of misconduct, one of the most important decisions the employer must make is selecting who will carry out the workplace investigation. While investigations can be carried out internally (that is, by an individual internal to the company, such as a member of HR, a supervisor, or manager), an employer’s best course of action is to hire an external investigator. There are a number of reasons for this, including the following:
- Hiring an external investigator who has no affiliation with the company will ensure that the investigation is conducted without any risk or perception of bias.
- Workplace investigations are often complex and technical, meaning that the individual(s) selected to carry them out require specialized training, skills, and knowledge. For example, if the investigation involves allegations of discriminatory conduct in the workplace, the employer should select an investigator who has been trained and has experience in conducting trauma-informed investigations.
- Oftentimes, an employee’s complaint will relate to individuals within the company who may be best positioned to conduct the workplace investigation themselves, making it necessary to hire an external investigator. Examples of this would be complaints against members of HR, supervisors, managers, directors, and various others.
- Internal investigators may not be able to commence the investigation in a timely manner due to other workplace duties and obligations.
- The more serious the allegations, the greater the likelihood the investigation process will be scrutinized by a court or tribunal, underscoring the need for an external third-party investigator to dispel any perception of bias.
- By hiring an external investigator who is also a lawyer, the investigation report would likely be protected by solicitor-client privilege, which ensures confidentiality.
To summarize, a workplace investigation must be conducted by an investigator who is both impartial and qualified. That is where we come in.
Why Choose Hyde HR Law as Your Impartial Third-Party Workplace Investigator?
At Hyde HR Law, our lawyers have vast experience in all aspects of labour and employment law, including workplace investigations. We undertake third-party workplace investigations for corporations, institutions, charities and businesses of all sizes, spanning diverse sectors and circumstances. We also assist our clients in guiding their HR personnel through the internal workplace investigation process by providing ongoing oversight and support. We understand the urgency behind workplace investigations, and aim to be as stream-lined and efficient as possible. Most importantly, we conduct lawful investigations that hold up to scrutiny before the courts.
As part of our practice, we conduct fact-finding investigations into various types of workplace complaints, including allegations of:
- Human rights violations, including discrimination;
- Workplace harassment (such as bullying) and sexual harassment;
- Workplace violence and/or threats of violence;
- Safety violations;
- A toxic work environment;
- Inappropriate or unprofessional behaviour; and
- Violations of workplace policies or rules
At the same time, we provide our clients with recommendations that ultimately serve to make the workplace less susceptible to future complaints and allegations of misconduct. For these reasons, we are trusted to not only conduct investigations which are appropriate in the circumstances, but also guide our clients as they move forward.
We understand the impact that serious allegations of misconduct can have upon a workplace, and we take our role in investigating such matters very seriously. Our lawyers treat investigations with the sensitivity and confidentiality they require, and play an active role in restoring harmony to the workplace. Furthermore, our investigations are conducted in a timely, objective, and thorough manner, as we do everything we can to alleviate our client’s concerns.
Finally, we conduct our investigations with costs and efficiency in mind. While our team prides itself on being comprehensive and leaving no stone unturned in arriving at the right answer, we also realize that client resources are not unlimited. For that reason, we strive to provide our services at a more affordable rate than our competitors.
Protect Your Business – Choose Hyde HR Law
Workplace complaints should never be taken lightly. A proper workplace investigation can limit exposure to adverse legal findings and costs. When you hire our team, you retain experienced lawyers and workplace investigators who can be counted on to obtain the relevant information and ask the right questions. As investigators, we conduct thorough, objective, and unbiased investigations all while maintaining client privacy and confidentiality. We understand the law, the specific rules dealing with the investigation process, as well as how modern workplaces operate. Contact us today.