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Toronto Workplace Investigation Lawyers

Workplace investigations are an essential component of a healthy work culture. They help employees feel supported and assured that their concerns will be taken seriously by their employer. At the same time, effective workplace investigations can prevent conflict from escalating into larger issues that may poison the work environment.

An inexperienced or shoddy review of employee allegations can leave employers vulnerable to liability before a court or administrative tribunal. Sultan Lawyers conducts robust workplace investigations that are procedurally and legally sound. As impartial, third-party reviewers, we protect the integrity of the investigation process and recommend practical corrective action that preserves the rights of all parties involved.

Duties of Employers to Investigate Allegations

Workplace investigations are a best practice for ensuring basic employment standards, are protected, and breaches of employment laws are swiftly addressed. However, it is important to note that employers are required by law to investigate specific allegations. Under the Occupational Health and Safety Act, employers must investigate incidents and complaints relating to workplace harassment and violence. Additionally, employers have been liable for substantial financial damages for failing to properly investigate alleged discrimination or other breaches of the Human Rights Code.

Obligations of Employees During Investigation

Employees involved in an investigation, whether as a complainant, respondent, or witness, should cooperate fully throughout the process. An employee who refuses to cooperate or interferes with the investigation may face discipline or termination.

Any parties involved in the investigation must also maintain confidentiality throughout the process. This discretion should continue even after the investigation is complete, as much as possible.

Fairness in Workplace Investigations

Fairness is perhaps the most crucial element to an effective workplace investigation. Any unfairness in the investigative process places the entire investigation at risk of being overturned upon review by a court or administrative tribunal – even if the outcome itself is correct.

What is “fair” depends on each case, but some fundamental elements of procedural and substantive fairness that apply to all investigations include:

  • The respondent has a right to know the details of the allegations made against them (this does not always mean they are entitled to know the name of their accuser)
  • The investigator must be impartial and unbiased
  • The findings of the investigation must be reasonable and based on the application of the applicable law/policy/rule to the facts and evidence
  • The respondent must be given an opportunity to respond to the allegations and can only do so by having a complete understanding of the allegations themselves
  • The complainant and respondent are entitled to be informed of the findings of the investigation and the reasons for the outcome
  • The complainant and respondent should be advised of their right to request a review of the outcome, if applicable
  • All parties, whether the complainant, respondent, or witnesses, must be protected from reprisal by others for their participation in the investigation (aside from any appropriate and fair action taken as a result of the investigation’s findings)
  • Investigations should be completed in a timely manner so as not to unfairly prejudice any of the parties – for example, if a respondent is suspended pending the outcome of the investigation, an undue delay in the process could give rise to a claim of constructive dismissal

Benefits of Effective Workplace Investigations

The thorough investigation of an employee’s concerns not only protects the rights of the complainant employee but also those of the employer and the respondent named in the allegations:

  • The complainant employee is supported by the employer, who has demonstrated its commitment to the complainant’s rights under employment standards, human rights, and occupational health and safety laws.
  • The employer ensures that any steps taken, whether the dismissal of the complaint or action against the respondent employee, are supported by well-reasoned findings based on a thorough review of all relevant evidence. This reduces the employer’s risk of being found liable for wrongful dismissal or other employment/workplace-related law.
  • The respondent employee’s rights are protected through a procedurally fair investigation process.

An effective workplace investigation reduces the risk of the outcome being overturned in the future by a judge or administrative tribunal. Further, addressing problematic or illegal conduct (on either side of a complaint) helps maintain transparency and encourages open communication within the workplace.

Advantages of Hiring an External Investigator

Hiring an external workplace investigator has several procedural and legal advantages:

  • An unbiased, outside party conducts the process with no ties or connection to either side of the complaint
  • The investigator will prepare a thorough investigation strategy to ensure no relevant witnesses or documentary sources are missed
  • Witness interviews are conducted impartially and properly documented
  • Applicable laws, policies, rules, or other benchmarks are identified and incorporated, so findings are as thorough as possible
  • The investigator can make practical recommendations to address any problems identified in the investigation’s findings, such as the creation of new company policies, disciplinary action, or remedial training
  • Secure and effective evidence collection practices that protect all parties’ privacy
  • The outcome of the investigation is documented in a detailed report that sets out the facts, evidence, applicable law/policies/rules, and findings
  • A professional workplace investigator may also address systemic issues through culture audits or workplace remediation services.

Sultan Lawyers provides comprehensive workplace investigation services that include these advantages and more. We understand the complexities of workplace relationships and conduct professional, robust investigations that protect the parties’ rights and can withstand judicial scrutiny. Through our extensive knowledge of employment conflict, we make recommendations to address problems and restore a healthy workplace culture.

Contact Sultan Lawyers in Toronto for Thorough, Effective Workplace Investigations

With our diverse team and broad range of experience, Sultan Lawyers provides clients with a big firm experience through a small firm approach. Located in downtown Toronto, we practice exclusively in employment and workplace immigration law and proudly service clients across Canada and internationally. To schedule a confidential consultation, contact us at 416-214-5111 or email khayward@sultanlawyers.com.

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