Workplace investigations

Helping maintain a healthy workplace

In recent years, the law surrounding workplace harassment and discrimination has become increasingly important. As a result, the need for formal workplace investigations are becoming more common.

What is workplace investigation?

  • A workplace investigation is a process by which an employer investigates the allegations of an employee, or many employees.
  • If an employee raises a complaint that could potentially rise to the level of harassment, bullying, sexual harassment or assault, the employer must investigate the allegation;
  • The role of the investigator is to gather information to determine whether the alleged incident or incidents took place and then determine if the incident(s)/conduct rises to the level of harassment as defined by legislation or policy.
  • While employers are required to have policies in place addressing how they will deal with allegations of harassment, employers’ obligations go beyond these policies. They must ensure they comply with all their legal obligations found in the Occupational Health and Safety Act for provincially regulated employees or the Canada Labour Code for federally regulated employees.

Advantages of an external investigator

  • External investigations help ensure a fair and impartial process.
  • While investigations can be conducted internally, there may be a concern that the investigator is not truly neutral which could compromise the entire process.
  • Specifically, a party to the investigation may claim the findings are unreliable as the investigator was not impartial if they had any prior relationship or dealings – positive or negative – with either party. This is often of particular concern in smaller workplaces where most employees have worked closely together or have pre-existing relationships.
  • Some examples of situations where an internal investigation may be problematic include:
    • The respondent is a member of the management team
    • The employer has struggled to address workplace harassment in the past
    • The employer is unsure if an investigation can be conducted objectively by someone internally.

Why choose a Nelligan Law lawyer as an investigator?

  • Hiring a lawyer to conduct your investigation has unique benefits:
    • Lawyers are trained and experienced in reviewing evidence, making assessments on credibility, and applying the law to each specific case.
    • Many of our lawyer investigators have specialized workplace investigation training and/or certifications.
    • We understand that the process can be stressful and difficult for everyone involved, and that it can be very disruptive for the workplace. We commit to providing swift attention, and to completing the investigation as efficiently as possible.
    • We understand the need for confidentiality to make sure everyone involved feels safe throughout the process, and to ensure the integrity of the investigation is maintained.
    • We recognize that many cases involve sensitive facts and delicate issues. We treat everyone involved with respect and dignity throughout the process.

Watch our 3-part series on workplace investigations from our All Worked Up employment law podcast:

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