Considerations of Using Outside Firms to Conduct Internal Workplace Investigations

Considerations of Using Outside Firms to Conduct Internal Workplace Investigations

An outside investigation firm provides neutrality, fairness and reduced liability, especially when investigating upper management or serious allegations.

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.

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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.

RELATED: When to Hire an Outside Investigation Firm

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!

Timothy Dimoff
Timothy Dimoff

President, SACS Consulting & Investigative Services

Timothy A. Dimoff, CPP, president of SACS Consulting & Investigative Services, Inc., is a speaker, trainer and author and a leading authority in high-risk workplace and human resource security and crime issues.
He is a Certified Protection Professional; a certified legal expert in corporate security procedures and training; a member of the Ohio and International Narcotic Associations; the Ohio and National Societies for Human Resource Managers; and the American Society for Industrial Security. He holds a B.S. in Sociology, with an emphasis in criminology, from Dennison University.