Investigations from Complaint to Conclusion: HR's Legal and Practical Solutions

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Both state and federal law require employers to conduct a prompt, thorough investigation when claims of harassment, discrimination, and more are presented. Although that may seem logical, how do you know you're on the right path and that your investigation won't make things worse?

Employees at a Minnesota hotel started a false rumor that another employee had brought a gun to work that he intended to use during a meeting later that day. When the rumor came to light, the hotel administration took immediate steps to fire the employee and even contacted a security firm from California, who suggested they interview employees to obtain additional information.

The investigation was far from complete, and when the employee hired an attorney, it was discovered that the rumors were false. The employee sued the hotel for wrongful termination, among other things, and was awarded $476,326.00 in lost wages, as well as past and future damage to his reputation.

This case serves as a wake-up call for employers who underestimate the importance of a fair-handed workplace investigation. To protect your organization, you must have an effective strategy in place for every phase of the process  -- from the moment you hear a concern to the days and weeks after your investigation is complete.