California employment laws require an employer to conduct a “prompt, impartial, and thorough” employee complaint investigation of allegations involving claims of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation that are either allegedly unlawful or violate your company’s policies. Failing to conduct a workplace investigation after a claim may expose your business to subsequent legal action. Different types of complaints require different initial responses. However, all employee complaints need to be taken seriously.
EEOC (Federal Civil Rights Agency) Enforcement Guidance that establishes standards for employers to address employee complaints that require investigation:
- Prompt: The investigation must be necessary, initiated, and conducted promptly and reasonably under the circumstances.
- Impartial: The investigator must be trained and experienced, remain fair and impartial, avoid an appearance of apparent or actual bias, and have no stake in the outcome.
- Thorough: The investigator must plan and be prepared to identify, gather, review, and analyze all relevant evidence and reach a reasoned conclusion supported by the evidence, including credibility assessments.
Workplace Investigation Frequently Asked Questions
Common questions California employers have about Workplace Investigations
- What is the purpose of conducting an impartial Employee Complaint Investigation?
- How can I know if an investigation must be conducted?
- How do I avoid a conflict-of-interest issue regarding conducting the workplace investigation internally?
- I have decided that I need an External Investigator. Will there be any necessary interim action that needs to be taken during the Investigation?
- What can I expect from California Labor Solutions?
What is the purpose of conducting an impartial Employee Complaint Investigation?
The employer can determine what occurred when an allegation could potentially violate the employer’s policies, procedures, standards, ethics, or the law. An impartial investigation aims to provide an equitable process for the complainant and respondent to ensure reasoned findings based on the information gathered.
How can I know if an investigation must be conducted?
When indicated by law, policy, or practice, an employer must initiate a workplace investigation. Consider the following questions to determine if an investigation should be initiated:
- Are key facts in conflict?
- Is there a policy violation or violation of law?
- Is there a legal obligation to investigate?
- If discrimination is alleged, is the complainant in a protected category? If not, would the conduct violate the employer’s rules, ethics, or expectations?
How do I avoid a conflict-of-interest issue regarding conducting the workplace investigation internally?
To conduct a reliable and equitable internal workplace investigation, ask the following questions to the person you are considering to handle the process to ensure that they possess the requisite impartiality, objectivity, and unbiasedness needed for this role and function:
- Have you worked with this team member or group?
- Have you heard any comments, complaints, or gossip about this team member or group?
- Have you had negative interactions with either of the primary parties?
- Are you being asked to investigate your reporting chain?
- Are you higher ranked than any of the primary parties?
- Does the investigation involve an executive-level respondent?
- Do you have sufficient experience investigating allegations of discrimination, retaliation, or harassment?
- Do you have sufficient knowledge of workplace investigation best practices and California employment law to perform the investigation competently?
- Do you have the writing ability to produce a comprehensive investigation report to show what was investigated and the factual findings with analysis, credibility assessments according to the EEOC, and conclusions based on the facts and the policy or law?
- Do you have a professional profile to defend your competency to perform the investigation in a deposition or courtroom?
I have decided that I need an External Investigator. Will there be any necessary interim action that needs to be taken during the Investigation?
As the employer, if the allegations include violence or threats of violence, sexual assault or physical touching, or ongoing misconduct such as harassment or embezzlement, an interim action should be considered. This may include:
- Administrative leave, suspension, or transfer.
- Schedule adjustments.
- Temporary restraining orders.
What can I expect from California Labor Solutions?
At California Labor Solutions (CLS), we offer affordable premium licensed external workplace investigations in California of employee complaints such as discrimination, harassment, retaliation, and misconduct. We have extensive experience in the private business sector and public/local government sectors.
Since 2007, we are one of the few HR firms in California that are licensed to provide external workplace investigations. Only licensed attorneys, private investigators, or internal HR professionals are permitted by law to perform workplace investigations in California, given the impartiality, objectiveness, unbiasedness, and necessary skills and time required.
Our principal investigator is a former EEO investigator, HR Director, and labor negotiator with over 20 years of professional experience, as well as a law degree and numerous HR certifications. This professional profile and competencies will help to ensure a strategic investigation implementation with minimal disruption to your operations while we conduct a quality and competent investigation process and produce a comprehensive, reliable investigation report.
Our California-licensed investigators efficiently conduct cost-effective, objective, and unbiased external employee complaint investigations in California. In addition, according to the investigation’s factual findings, we can develop strategic solutions to minimize future risks in the gaps that left you vulnerable in the first place.
California Labor Solutions provides premium External Workplace Investigations services at affordable prices.
*California Private Investigator License Number 26311
Please note that the updates, advisories, and regulations we receive from the promulgating agency often contain ambiguities and are often amended, modified, or updated. This material/article/email does not contain any legal advice. The information and opinions expressed herein are based on our reasonable interpretation of the issuing agency’s publication when the opinion is expressed and is subject to change based on further developments. The effect of the opinions expressed may differ based on your particular circumstances, and it is recommended that you not rely upon these general opinions before obtaining a consultation with your legal and financial advisors.
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