Considerations of Using Outside Firms to Conduct Internal Workplace Investigations
As an investigator, you probably conduct most internal investigations yourself. In many instances, this is all that is needed. The goal is to always get to the truth as quickly and honestly as possible with as few repercussions as possible, so there may be times when it is prudent to use an outside firm.
Not sure if you should hire an outside investigation firm for your internal investigations?
Choosing the right investigator to conduct a workplace investigation can be more complicated than it sounds. This free cheat sheet provides six tips for choosing the right person (or team) for the job.
Outside Investigators are Neutral and Fair
The main reason to bring in an outside firm is to make sure everyone and everything is investigated with complete neutrality. The advantage that an outside firm brings is that they have no connections to anyone involved and they are not affected by any corporate politics. They bring a sense of complete fairness to the table as they have no vested interest in the findings or the outcome of the investigation.
An outside investigator can collect information in a more neutral and objective manner without being influenced by the workplace chain of command, coworkers, or friends.
If a situation occurs where there are conflicting accounts of the incident being investigated, an outside investigator has no loyalties or friendships with coworkers or to upper management that could appear to influence the situation, whereas an in-house investigator could be put into the position of having to judge the credibility of their coworkers or friends.
RELATED: Assembling an Investigation Team
Also, witnesses who may be afraid to speak candidly to an in-house investigator often feel free and comfortable speaking to an outside investigator.
Your aim should be to conduct a fair and thorough investigation and to do everything possible to avoid a lawsuit. So, the best course of action is to make sure that the person conducting the investigation appears to others and is actually unbiased and neutral, and is familiar with all relevant employment laws.
Outside Investigators Decrease Liability
While it may cost money to bring in an outside investigator, the costs must be weighed against the other factors, such as how much liability might be incurred in a lawsuit.
When making a determination as to whether to conduct the investigation in-house or use an outside firm, the factors to be considered include how serious the allegations are, how likely it is that this claim will end in litigation, and the capabilities and experience of the company personnel who would conduct the investigation.
Also, it is important to consider how the internal investigator would perform as a witness in the event of litigation and if the internal investigator can be perceived as completely unbiased.
If the allegations of the situation are at the highest levels of management, it is probably best to hire an outside investigator, as it is doubtful that a company employee will be perceived as independent.
How you respond to and investigate internal complaints of harassment, discrimination, and other misconduct allegations can have a serious impact both legally and practically, affecting employee morale, productivity, workplace culture, and your company’s bottom line!